Raising Needham: Celebrating Earth Day with Kids

This spring holiday is an excellent opportunity for schools to teach children about our precious Earth and all we can do to help her stay healthy.


I love Earth Day. Maybe it's because I love a good cause, or maybe it's because I love an easy opportunity to teach my kids something valuable. Easy because Earth Day is such an obvious way to teach kids of all ages about our great planet.

It doesn’t matter how much or little you know about all the ways we can help Mother Earth (that’s what the Internet is for), because even the smallest things can help. And kids don’t really care as long as they feel they are helping. They will enjoy this chance to spend time learning, doing and making a difference.

The opportunity to teach kids about helping our Earth extends to the classroom, and I was happy to learn about all the ways the schools are teaching kids about our great planet. I think many of us think this starts in kindergarten, but having two kids that started “school” as toddlers, I know better. Teachers are reaching into the smallest of minds to show how the smallest effort can help our planet.

My son’s preschool teacher is gathering parents for a family tree planting celebration, asking for compost material to show the kids how to compost and its importance and culminating their space curriculum with the study of Earth. And that’s only preschool!

I spoke to a local Montessori school where they will be inviting parents and other community members to participate in what they call a "co-laboratory." Students will create a PR campaign to stop people from idling car engines in the pick-up line (now that is something I want to push for at my daughter’s school), create a water filtering system, learn about composting and harnessing solar power and create art projects with found objects. These are all amazing ways to help our Earth, and all can be geared toward almost any age group.

My favorite Earth Day story happily comes right from my daughter’s elementary school. A fellow parent told me that the kids in her daughter’s second grade class are “learning about global warming and are starting to understand the inter-connectiveness of life. For instance, they understand the role of plants in simplistic ways—too much CO2 is being created by cars and generating electricity, causing our planet to warm up (and melt the ice caps!) and plants help clear out more CO2 and make oxygen.

She went on to recall a great story: "Remember that week in February when it got up to 70 degrees? My daughter [the second grader], after I picked her up from school, jumped out of the car at home, whipped off her coat while getting out of the car and started yelling, 'Mom, shut off the car, turn off the lights in the house—it's global warming!'" There is no doubt that young student understood what she was learning.

I heard from parents talking about their kids picking up trash in and around their school year. Walk-to-School days and art projects displayed at schools and local retailers promoting Earth Day were also mentioned. School assemblies honoring those who keep the school clean from custodians to parents and student volunteers.

And for our smallest earthlings, there are songs about our planet and great books, and it is never too young to start recycling. I still remember my dad telling me about his company's recycling program way back in the late '70s. I was so excited to set it up in our mud room and take control of sorting and getting the recycling to the center. That stuck with me, and now it is my kids' turn to be in charge of our recycling.

I guess my point is this: Earth Day is a great opportunity to teach children of all ages the importance of taking care of our planet. It can be done at home and at school. It can be done simply and it can be made more complex for older kids. It just needs to be done.

Recycle, reuse and reduce, and Happy Earth Day!


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