At a time when people are being forced to stay home around the globe, pollution is dissipating in parts of Asia, water in Italy is becoming clean and clear, and wildlife are roaming free in places in which they’ve never before been allowed. Earth is on the rise. These major and miraculous changes are just more proof that humans are to blame for Climate Change. We, sadly, are the problem. However, humans can also help. People have invented nets to capture ocean plastic and remove it from our seas, teenagers and children are speaking out about Climate Change, and many people are finding ways to power their homes with clean energy. Despite being the biggest part of the problem, we can also be the solution.
Back in the 1960s, people started to see how much of a negative impact humans were having on Earth. Oil spills were killing wildlife, global temperatures were surging, and rain forests were being clear cut. Some activists and politicians started to take note, which led to the creation of Earth Day. Unfortunately, 50 years later, things have only gotten worse. Ice caps are melting, strange storms are brewing in areas never before hit by such odd weather, and temperatures in our oceans are climbing at an alarming rate. Animals and plants are going extinct because of what we’ve done. Luckily though, there is good news. People are becoming more aware of these problems than ever before. People are speaking out, protesting, and trying to bring about change. While things may not change drastically any time soon, changes are being made to help protect Mother Earth from further damage. She is a vital member of our family, and we need to take care of her like one.
While Remote Learning has made many things much more challenging for teachers and students, I knew that I had to find a creative and powerful way to celebrate and make my students aware of Earth Day. When we were in the classroom, we talked about recycling, reducing our carbon footprint, and helping to protect Earth. It felt only fitting that we needed to also talk about Earth Day. So, Wednesday, April 22, was devoted to making my students more aware of the issues impacting our great planet and what we can do to make a difference. During our Morning Meeting, I posed a special question to the students for our share that day: Why should you, as fifth graders, care about what happens to Earth? Their responses were powerful and passionate. They seem to understand the gravity of the situation. Here are some their responses:
- “If this world dies, we don’t really have a back-up planet. One day a year is not even close to enough. If everybody were to be mindful of their consumption of fossil fuels and products made by them on Earth Day, it still wouldn’t help. It wouldn’t even put a dent in the problems.”
- “We’re the next generation to live on this Earth and we want to be here for as long as possible. We want our kids to actually have a planet on which to live.”
- “I always think of us as equals with other animals. They are dying, and so we are next.”
- “We need to prepare for what may come and what will come. We want our Earth to be the best that it can be. One day isn’t enough. We should have Earth Day every day.”
- “Earth helps us, it helps the environment, and so we should take care of the Earth like it is one of our family members.”
My goal was to begin the day by helping my students to see why we all need to take care of Earth. All humans have a responsibility to do something to help our Earth. I closed out our discussion by telling the students, “We need to have a more symbiotic relationship with Earth. While we are only going to be able to do a few things during our virtual class day today, I want you to think of the other 364 days as Earth Days as well. So, what else can you do to help? All year we’ve talked about the little things that we can do like recycling, not over-using water or other natural resources, and finding a way to repurpose things that we would otherwise throw away. Do those little things at home. Find your own ways to help.” Self-awareness is a big part of how changes can and will be made. I wanted my students to understand why we do celebrate Earth Day each year, as a way to begin our day-long celebration.
Later that morning, I had the students go out and become one with Earth. The students went outside and sat in the forest, played in the woods, or just explored the natural world right outside of their homes. As they did this, I had them do some writing and drawing about their experiences. I wanted them to see the beauty of Earth and all that she provides us with. I wanted them to hear the birds calling, the wind whistling, the trees waving, and life slowly awakening from its long winter sleep. I too participated in this activity, and was blown away, almost literally by the strong winds blowing that day, by just how beautiful the natural world truly is. The trees huddled together like athletes before a big game. The wind blew so loudly, as if Mother Nature were commanding us to rise and celebrate on this special day. It was awesome. I then had the students gather together again on Google Meet to share our experiences in being outdoors. They all really appreciated the opportunity to get outside and look around. One student spent her time in a tree, writing poetry. Here are some of the wonderful things they created during their time in nature:
- One student created a game regarding Climate Change as well as a quote: “We gave the Earth to Climate Change and now we must take it back.” How deep is that? Wow!
- One student wrote a poem:
- The wind is howling and it is freezing.
- Tall trees I see,
- So quiet, just me
- Dead silence:
- It’s just me and the breeze.
- Another student also wrote a poem:
- Cold but brisk, sending shivers down your spine
- The trees swaying, wait,
- no, waving, saying, hello.
- The sun comes out of hiding
- to say, hello.
The students were so inspired by nature. They created some very cool drawings, stories, thoughts, and poems. I closed our sharing discussion by telling the students, “As we can all see, there is clearly so much in nature that inspires us. As you continue with your day, take the time to look around and see all the wonder and beauty that Earth has to offer.” My goal for this activity was for students to truly appreciate Earth and all that she allows us, as humans, to do. I wanted my students to see what it is they are trying to protect and care for on this Earth Day.
I closed our academic day by having the students share and think about what they can do to continue celebrating and taking care of Earth later that day or over the next 364 days. They had some very realistic and helpful ideas for how to continue to spread this love for Earth. Here are some of their suggestions:
- “I could help take care of the ducks that live in a pond near my house. There was a little oil spill that happened a while ago and my mom and I helped clean the ducks off and protect them from the oil. I can continue to watch over them. I can also watch over the turtles that live in the pond. Last year, a car drove over a turtle that had gotten in the road. I could help get the turtles out of the road if I see them in it.”
- “There’s all this rusty metal and trash in the woods behind my house. I could remove it and then turn that area into a nice bike trail for my family and others to enjoy.”
- “I can write messages on the sidewalk and roads using sidewalk chalk. I wrote one on today that said, ‘Happy Earth Day! Do something nice for the environment.'”
- “There is a pond near my house in which lots of wildlife live. There is also lots of trash and stuff in it too. I could take out some of the trash and help to keep the pond clean.”
- “I make cake pops and when I’m done with the sticks, I reuse them. I’m also telling people that I give the cake pops to, to reuse them as well. I can work on reusing and repurposing things.”
- “I can protect the trees and forest near my house to make sure they stay clean and healthy.”
While I wasn’t expecting any of my students to generate some new and amazing idea that no one has ever thought of before to save Earth, they all had ideas that are realistic and would be possible for them to do. What really amazed me was what one student said before she shared her idea, “We all lie. I know I do, but this is something important. We’re all saying great ideas, but I hope that we stick with them and actually do them. Mr. Holt asked us to share ideas we could do, we should think of it as have to do. We need to act like every day is Earth Day. I hope we can all do what we say we’re going to do.” How profound and honest. I love it! My students are the ones holding each other accountable. That’s pretty awesome! “From the mouths of babes,” someone once said. So true. My students are incredibly thoughtful, compassionate, and insightful. I closed out our Earth Day celebration with some parting words, “Stay true to yourself and be the spark of change. Find ways, each and every day, to help take care of and protect Earth.” My goal for this activity was to inspire my students to keep these positive vibes going. I want them to truly think of every day as Earth Day.
Although we would have done a bit more to recognize Earth Day if we were on site at school on that day, I feel that I found some creative and engaging ways for the students to be a part of the 50th Earth Day celebration. I didn’t allow Remote Learning to stop me from recognizing this special day. Instead, I got creative and found ways to make Earth Day a virtual event for my students. Remote Learning is only as restrictive as I allow it to be for me as a teacher.