Earth Day: 7 Ways to Increase Environmental Stewardship

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April 22 is the 44th anniversary of Earth Day. Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin founded Earth Day in 1970, as a means of bringing attention to environmental issues. Encourage your kids to be environmental stewards with some of the ideas below, and more of your own.

Get Outdoors and Get Moving

1. Visit a national park: National Park Week is April 19 through April 27. There are 401 national parks throughout the United States. Many of the parks are free year-round, and during the opening weekend of April 19 and 20, all parks nationwide will be free for your kids to enjoy the flora and fauna the parks have to offer. Find what events are happening in your state that week by searching the NPS event calendar.

Photo by Sarah Evans

Photo by Sarah Evans

2. Start a garden: Whether you plant flower or vegetable seeds or both, you and your kids can enjoy some time together in the outdoors. A small space in the backyard, a flower pot on a balcony, or window sill planter box are all fine. Give your kids a packet or two of seeds to plant, and some potting soil, and remember to follow the directions on the packets regarding sun and water for the best results. Once seedlings appear, sharpen arithmetic skills by measuring the tallest plant once a week, and keep a log for several weeks to see if the plant grows by the same amount each week. Or have kids keep a garden journal from year to year to see how much they’ve learned from their experiences.

Healthy Eating

3. Go to a farmers market: There are a lot of reasons to shop at a farmers market. If close enough, walk or bike with your family to a local farmer’s market. Have your kids pick out a favorite fruit or two to make smoothies, or pick out a favorite vegetable that can be served with a low-calorie dip or with another favorite food like peanut butter.


4. Get creative with recyclables: Talk to your kids about why it’s a bad idea to litter—not only can it be unsightly, but it can actually harm animals, water and soil. Explain that recycling things, such as plastic, glass, and paper, also can help by not creating as much trash that could become litter. See if your kids can identify recyclables around the house and come up with ideas of something they could make and use, like a pencil holder from a plastic milk bottle or a desk organizer from an egg carton. Try making a bird feeder from a paper plate and paper towel roll, to attract local species of birds and increase your kids’ appreciation of nature.


5. Read story books about the environment: These books have great messages to share with your kids about the environment:


6. Explore the neighborhood’s geology: Take a walk with your kids and find different rocks. See how many different kinds of small rocks you find, based on the color, size, shape, and texture. Make a log of these descriptors, and include where you found each—was it the park, a friend’s front yard, your backyard—and draw or put a picture of the rock with each entry. Can you find any similarities among the rocks? Are there different kinds in each location or are they all the same kind? Dig deeper into the study of geology with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Education website.

Life Sciences

7. Go bird watching: Put some bird seed or bread out on your patio, balcony, deck, or back step. Or if you prefer a bird feeder, and don’t already have one, make one (see Art above). See how many different birds come to eat. If you go to a National Park, check out what kinds of birds are indigenous to that area.

These are just a few ideas to promote kids’ environmental stewardship. And the Department has undertaken initiatives to make the schools kids attend healthier, safer, and more sustainable. Check out resources from ED’s Green Strides initiative for more on how this goal is being achieved.

crafts // Earth Day // environment // environmental education // geology // National Park Service // recycle // STEM // U.S. Department of Agriculture // U.S. Geological Survey // April 16, 2014