Great Environmental Activities For Kids
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?
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.
Another reason to celebrate
- Saving America's Wetlands
America's Wetland Month is a celebration and a call for awareness concerning the loss of wetlands across our country.
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?
- Earth Day April 22nd: Activities For Your Children
Earth Day is April 22nd; here is a list of activities for children that will help them to understand the environment and help them to become stewards of the Earth.
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)