Weekly Warm-Up: 5 Ways to Inspire Student Environmentalists in Time for Earth Day

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Photo by Kate Ter Haar, courtesy flickr. CC BY 2.0

Nearly 50 years ago, the first Earth Day inspired millions of Americans and helped spark the modern environmental movement. Yet today the issues Earth Day brings to light—climate change, water pollution, deforestation, and many others—remain as relevant as ever.

Wondering how to introduce your students to Earth Day? Check out our National Geographic Explorer! magazine article, “Celebrate Earth,” and our corresponding activity.

Ready to dive deeper? Here are 5 ways to immerse your students in the issues.

1. Empower students to brainstorm solutions to the Earth’s biggest challenges.
What is the future of Earth’s climate? What are our energy choices? Will there be enough fresh water? Will the air be clean enough to breathe? Can we feed the growing population? These questions represent a range of pressing environmental issues, and our High-Adventure Science Collection empowers students to think like researchers to understand and solve them.

2. Read the stories of environmental activists.
There’s a good reason the scientific method puts observation and research so early on in the process. Understanding a problem’s history and the ways others have tried to solve it helps us pick up where they left off. Older students may enjoy reading Rachel Carson’s account of marine life from her book, Under the Sea-Wind. Or, younger students may be inspired to invent new recycling practices after reading One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of Gambia.

3. Study the science behind climate change.
Chances are good that your students have heard about climate change, but they may not understand the science behind it. The free itextbook, The Story of Climate Change, has videos, interactive resources, infographics, and more, to make climate science accessible to 5th through 8th graders.

4. Research the impact of human actions on marine ecosystems.
Sometimes when students think of Earth Day, they only think of issues related to land. However, with more than 70% of the Earth’s surface covered in water, aquatic environments deserve attention too. Our lesson, Human Impacts on the World Ocean, helps students discover the many factors affecting our oceans.

5. Host a “Trees for the Earth” Event
Earth Day’s 2016 theme is “Trees for the Earth.” The goal is to plant 7.8 billion trees by Earth Day’s 50th anniversary in 2020. You can register your own tree-planting event with your class to have your students’ contributions included in that tally.

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