Five ways to teach your students how to be sustainable citizens this Earth Day

With the environmental and climate crisis proliferating, the Earth Day, celebrated on April 22nd, is becoming increasingly important. So, how do you convey that importance to your students and engage them in saving our Earth for generations to come? Here are five creative ways.

Recycling experiment

The easiest type of recycling that you can do in the classroom is paper recycling.

>> Use some of the paper you have lying around (it must be plastic-free), whether some old drawings or pages from old notebooks.
>> Soak the small, torn pieces of paper in water and let them sit for a couple of days.
>> You will need a kitchen mixer to turn the soaked pieces into a paper pulp.
>> Take a window screen (with mesh) and strain the pulp, then press it into the shape of the paper.
>> Use a cloth and press it on top of the paper to remove excess water.
>> Let it dry for another day or so, and use it to draw or write Earth-friendly drawings and messages.

Besides giving an example of how recycling works, this exercise shows that recycling takes a lot of work (tearing the paper, soaking it), resources (water, electric power) and leaves a residue (excess pulp or trimmed paper edges). Recycling is not a miracle solution to excessive waste. Point out the other solutions - reducing the amount of waste and reusing whatever can be reused, and note that recycling is actually the last resort of responsible waste management.

Plant something

The most impressive action to do with students is perhaps to plant a tree or a shrub. Use the opportunity to talk about the overall importance of trees as oxygen makers, natural pollution filters and animal habitats. If you don't have space, or lack special permission for the planting a tree, you can plant seeds of trees or flowers. Planting the seed mixtures made for pollinators gives you an excuse to talk about the significance of bees and butterflies to the living world and human agriculture.


The Earth Day is a perfect opportunity for older students to debate on relevant hot topics such as climate change, fossil fuels, pollution, future of food production and consumerism. Create teams that will approach the chosen topic from different standpoints and give them about five resources each. A debate is a dynamic way to learn, as well as to debunk some myths that can the children have probably already encountered through the media.

Glasshouse experiment

Climate change, or global warming, is a phenomenon in which certain gasses prevent the heat from escaping from the Earth back into space, much like a glasshouse would. You can explain this with a simple experiment. You will need a larger bowl, a thermometer, a black cloth or a paper, and plastic foil.

Put the thermometer into the bowl, cover it with a black cloth and leave it in a sunny spot. After several minutes, check and note the temperature. Then, remove the black cloth and put the plastic foil. By using a permanent marker, write chemical symbols of glasshouse gasses - CO2, CH4, CFC, etc. - on the foil. Watch as the heat rises, but be careful about the thermometer - it can get so hot inside the bowl that it could pop.

Exchange and give away unwanted things

Excess litter and waste are one of the main environmental issues today. A responsible citizen of the Earth should act responsibly towards his belongings to avoid adding to the problem of waste generation. Tell your students to bring their unwanted clothes or toys that are still in good condition. They can exchange items among themselves first. After that phase is complete, you can collect them into a box to give away to charity.

Explain that through this practice you're doing two good deeds - you're making someone happy by giving them things they might need, and you're preventing the hardly-recyclable items from ending up and piling up in a landfill.

Looking for some low prep options this Earth Day? Why not check out my Earth Day Craft Activity, Earth Day Celebration Study, or Earth Day Scavenger Hunt? Students love these resources and learn so much about our earth from them. 


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