Earth Day first began on March 21, 1970, in San Francisco, California. The holiday reminds us all to think about air and water pollution, cleaning up trash, and protecting our Earth's natural resources. Take the opportunity of Earth Day, now celebrated annually on April 22, to learn about environmental problems and how you and your family can make a difference in your world.
Gather your family for a discussion about your individual roles in stopping pollution and litter. What can you do as a family in your neighborhood to control this problem? Organize a cleanup of your yard, local park, or the beach. But first, make fun litterbags for collecting litter. Give each child a brown grocery bag, bring out the crayons and markers, and encourage your children to draw pictures of our beautiful Earth on the bags. Now, you're ready to go on a litter hunt! Who can collect the most trash? After the trash hunt, make sure everyone scrubs their hands thoroughly with soap and water. (After your litter pickup, you can use these decorated bags at home to store recyclables.)
Create a Gift from Nature
Earth Day isn't just about the Earth—it's about the oceans too! Take a walk along the beach and collect seashells for a memorable paperweight. (If you live in an area without beaches, most craft stores sell shells.) First, purchase plaster of Paris and mix one cup with water until it reaches a paste-like consistency. (An adult needs to help younger kids with this, and please follow the instructions on the package carefully). Pour this plaster into a plastic margarine tub. Now press the shells into the plaster and let the plaster and shells harden completely. Carefully remove your new paperweight from the plastic tub. Admire your fantastic new shell paperweight—a beautiful gift from nature.
Share the Sun
Help your child discover how sunlight warms the Earth. Touch different outdoor objects in the sun (rocks, branches, outdoor furniture, etc.), then some in the shade. Which ones are warmer? Which are cooler? You can also try some solar-powered cooking. Line a large bowl with aluminum foil and make s'mores cookies using a graham cracker with mini-marshmallows and chocolate chips on top. Place these cookies in the bowl, outside in the sunlight. Periodically check on the melting process. A little patience equals a yummy snack!
Reap What You Sow
One way for children to learn to love the land is for them to work it. Have your child adopt a piece of the Earth in your own yard. Plant a new tree or a patch of flowers and watch them grow. Have your child take responsibility for watering and weeding their plot. Don't forget to take pictures—with your child in them—to record the growth of their plants. If you choose to plant a tree, take a new picture each year to record your child's growth relative to the tree's growth.
You can also try an organic garden complete with a compost pile. Many throw-away food items are perfect additions to the compost pile, such as fruit and vegetable peels. This is a way to fertilize your garden and cut down on garbage. It's a wonderful learning experience for children to garden, harvest, cook, and eat their own delicious homegrown fruits and vegetables.