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Great Environmental Activities For Kids

Updated on November 6, 2013

Earth Day has been an important event to this writer for quite some time now. When I was a teacher I always made sure that this one special day was treated with the respect it is due, so each Earth Day week my students and I would do a learning unit on the environment.

I had an advantage in that I taught geography and science for a number of years so Earth Day fit into my curriculum quite nicely. I was also lucky enough to be a part of a fine organization called “Washington State Geographical Alliance” which provided countless activity suggestions that aided in my environmental teachings. One year, in 1997, I was sent by this fine organization back to the headquarters of the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., where I attended their Leadership Academy, a week-long schooling on how to teach teachers new techniques in teaching geography and environmental studies. It was truly a wonderful opportunity.

Over the years I have picked up some great activities that can easily be done at home by parents and children and I thought I would pass along some of those activities now in honor of Earth Day. Trust me when I tell you that these are not difficult activities to perform. The basis for that statement is the fact that I was able to perform them so my guess is just about anyone can do the same. I was never gifted with mechanical talent nor a carpenter’s inherent sense of design so I confident that if I can do these things then so can you and your kids.

Shall we begin?

The wonder of Nature: The Yellowstone River
The wonder of Nature: The Yellowstone River | Source
We share this Earth
We share this Earth | Source

Making Landforms

I love this activity and the kids do too because it gives them a chance to work with their hands and create little sculptures that are practically mistake-free. In this activity your children are going to make a landscape replica using the following materials:

· A piece of plywood or thick cardboard for a base

· A paint set

· A batch of Geo Goop (or clay or papier mache)

I have always used Geo Goop, a substance I learned to make a long time ago; I like it because it is so simple to make.

  • Mix and heat on medium,
    5 lbs salt
    2 cups of water.
  • Mix in separate bowl,
    1 lb. cornstarch
    2 cups water
  • Stir until smooth.
  • Add cornstarch mixture slowly to salt mixture, stirring constantly while still on stove.
  • When the two mixtures are thoroughly combined, remove from heat, roll into tennis sized balls and wrap in plastic wrap. Will keep indefinitely.
  • Makes 16 - 18 balls of Geo Goop.

Once you have made your Goop have the kids make a list of as many landforms on Earth that they can think of; the list will look something like this……mountain, lake, river, cliff, bay, sea, hill, valley, etc.

With the list completed and the Goop made it is time for the kids to make as many of those landforms using the plywood or cardboard as the Earth’s surface. Next have them paint the whole thing and you end up with a really cool art form that they will just love.

For a different approach, tell them that you are all going to learn about watersheds. With the Goop have them create a river valley with mountains on both sides of the valley. You can use this as a teaching tool as you take real water, lightly pour it on the mountains and watch where the water flows. Explain that a watershed is an area that drains into a river or river system.

An extension of this and another learning moment is when you ask them what happens when there is logging in those mountains, or when someone uses pesticides on farms nearby the river. Their answers should eventually come to the fact that the run-off will flow into the river or seep into the groundwater, thus polluting the water.

Trust me on this one; they will love this activity and come away with a better appreciation for the importance of our natural water sources.

Feel the majesty of nature
Feel the majesty of nature | Source

Everything on Earth Is Connected

This is a fun activity that takes very little planning or preparation. In this lesson the kids will learn a little about orientation, mapping and the connection of all life around them. For this activity you will need:

· One drawing pad per child, plus pencil

· About twelve feet of string per child

· One magnifying glass per child

· Four wooden stakes per child

Take the kids to a vacant lot or park….or heck, your front yard, but it would be better if it were somewhere that is not developed. Give each child their string and have them plot a three-foot square using some sort of stake to hold down the corners.

Next, have them draw a picture of their area. Now they can get down on their hands and knees and using the magnifying glass have them look closely to see what is contained in that area. Everything they see needs to go on the map that they draw….rocks, sticks, mounds, puddles, whatever is there will be drawn on the map.

Teach them how to draw a compass rose on their map for direction and to draw it to scale, i.e. two or three inches equals one foot.

Now ask them if they saw any life forms in their area. Now it is question and answer time. What do those life forms eat? What eats those life forms? What would be some of the dangers that those life forms would face during a normal day? If all of those life forms were to disappear what would happen? In other words, if all the ants disappeared or were killed off, what would be the consequences? Some will say that the higher life forms will just find something else to eat but that simply does not happen in nature. Animals stay with a very uniform diet and if their food source is taken away from them then they will die as well. This will lead to a discussion about how all life forms on Earth are connected and what happens to one will affect a great many other species.

Have you made a green pledge yet for Earth Day?

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The Possibilities Are Endless

It takes very little imagination to see the other lessons that can come from these two simple activities. One of the greatest teaching classrooms we will ever have is the Great Outdoors. Every trip to a wooded area is an opportunity to teach about nature. Every trip to the ocean or river or lake is another opportunity. Life is all around us and Mother Earth will be more than happy to teach your children some lessons about the importance of life on Earth and how it is our responsibility to leave a legacy as good stewards of the Earth.

Take your children for a nature walk this weekend. Do not delay! Let them run and jump and laugh and explore. Let them get dirty and muddy and dance in the rain. They are our hope for the future, and they are Earth's hope for the future as well.

Teach them well now and we all will benefit down the road of life.

2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Vellur, thank you very much! It is my hope that more parents will realize the importance of lessons like this one.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      You are an excellent teacher, these are ideas that will really instill the idea of saving Planet Earth. Voted up.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you once again, Dim! I respect your abilities so your kind words mean a great deal to me.

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 5 years ago from Great Britain

      Wonderful ideas. Any child would enjoy these activities whilst learning the importance of our taking care of our Mother earth.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sabrani, you are very welcome; I hope you enjoy them and thank you for stopping by.

    • sabrani44 profile image

      sabrani44 5 years ago

      Great ideas! Will have to try these with the family, thanks for sharing.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hi Sharilee and thank you for the compliment. I had a great career teaching and loved every minute of it, as did the kids. I appreciate you sharing my hub and have a wonderful weekend and Earth Day!

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      Billy, it sounds like you were (are) a heck of a teacher! I love your use of experiential learning and that goop stuff sounds amazing.I am to share this at a couple of places because it's so well done. Nice work!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Katrine, I'm glad you liked this hub! It's a bit out of the norm for me; I'm bubbling over with teaching activities but never feel satisfied with the result when I write about them. I hope your children, and you, have a wonderful Earth Day!

    • profile image

      KatrineDalMonte 6 years ago

      Bill this is a great hub. My kids love spending time in the garden, parks, out and about, and always exploring new things out there. Connection with the nature is so important right from the early years. I love your 'Making Landforms' instructions, will try that...Take care and all the best.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ruby! I always love to see your smiling face stop by my site.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I'm with you on the importance of teaching our children to care and protect Mother Earth. Thank you for sharing a well written article...

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ruchira my dear friend! I appreciate your kind spirit more each day. Blessings and peace to you!

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 6 years ago from United States

      Creative activities listed there, Bill.

      What a cool way to create awareness about our mother earth :)

      voted up indeed!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Yes indeed, Teaches, getting outdoors is a must in order to celebrate Earth Day! Kids need to be out and about, touching, smelling, seeing, feeling the whole experience that is life. Thank you my friend!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Lord; I agree completely about the teachers out there. I have heard the arguments against higher salaries and they are all so much hogwash. We need to upgrade the entire education system. Thanks for your great comment.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 6 years ago

      This a great project for celebrating earth day with children. It will certainly get them interested in helping to save our earth's resources. I love the photos, they are so beautiful and represent how lovely our earth is to us. You are so right, any outdoor experience is a chance to teach. Voted up!

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 6 years ago

      Wonderful reasons to learn with you Billibuc, Earh day was always a day to remember about a global home. Geo Goops are so didactic and appealing to our young future leaders. Sadly, today a teacher is mostly thinking of means to get a second job, because salaries are ridiculous! Thanks for the pics my friend. There must be a creator of all, as we can see.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Right on Sweetie! This is such an important celebration and it is amazing to see how much it has grown over the years. Thank you so much for your great comment.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 6 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I believe it is important we teach kids about the earth around us. I remember studying earth day in elementary school, when it was still a relatively new thing. It was exciting to create landforms, and do geography lessons, but I was always the kid who enjoyed that sort of thing. I write a lot about crafting articles as an adult, and I like to talk about recycling and how you can use things at home to create cards, etc.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hey Audra! Yep, geo goop has been around for twenty years or so and it is fun stuff to make and play with. Thank you for being so loyal and have a great day!

    • profile image

      iamaudraleigh 6 years ago

      I remember going to day camp and making Geo Goop!!! We called ooh block! Thank you for bringing back fond childhood memories Bill! Great hub...voted up!!!