Illustration by Edpuzzle Staff
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” - Rachel Carson
Earth Day is a great opportunity to engage students in service projects, whether through tree planting or a community clean-up. But in order to shape environmentally-conscious citizens for the future, we need to be engaging our students in critical thinking.
Environmentalism is a year-round (and time-sensitive!) affair, and it’s important for students to understand the human impact on the planet so that they can take action.
We’ve put together a list of Earth Day lesson plans and paired them with Edpuzzle video lessons to create a complete learning experience for students in elementary, middle, and high school (in that order).
If you like what you see, just copy the video lesson directly to your Edpuzzle account to use right away, or edit the video to adapt it to your students’ needs. Happy Earth Day everyone!
It’s hard to get preschoolers to remember to throw things away in the recycling bin, as opposed to the trash bin, if they don’t understand what the difference is. This lesson introduces recycling to young students with the hands-on opportunity to sort their own recyclables.
And what better way to learn about recycling than with Sesame Street? In this video, Murray and Ovejita (the bilingual lamb) take students on a virtual field trip to a recycling center to see what happens to plastic, glass, and metal after it gets recycled.
“Here Comes the Garbage Barge” by Jonah Winter (Grades K-3)
This hilarious book (based on a true story) tells the tale of a town that tries to dispose of their trash using a barge, only to have every port refuse to accept the cargo.
In this lesson by Storyline Online, students analyze the story from all angles. Activities include: tracing the route of the Garbage Barge, building a landfill model, and writing a persuasive piece about recycling.
Don’t have a copy of the book? No problem! You can watch the animated version with students in class and use Edpuzzle’s Live Mode to strategically stop the video for discussion.
Composting: A Scientific Investigation (Grades 3-7)
Although recycling is great, composting is like recycling 2.0. It further reduces the amount of stuff that ends up in landfills by separating organic waste from regular trash.
Organic waste comes from plant and animal material such as uneaten food and lawn scraps. This is the same type of waste that is found in nature when plants and animals die.
In this two-part inquiry-based activity, students explore why only some types of garbage decompose and design an experiment to test different variables affecting the rate of decomposition.
The Crash Course video below is great for elementary students who are starting to learn about ecosystems and energy.
Middle school students will enjoy this TED-Ed video that reimagines the food chain that we typically think of.
What's Causing Sea-Level Rise? Land Ice Vs. Sea Ice (Grades 2-8)
The ocean is about 7 to 8 inches higher now than it was a century ago. But where exactly is that extra water coming from?
In this hands-on activity from NASA, students conduct an experiment to learn how melting land ice versus sea ice contribute to rising sea level.
The lesson pairs nicely with this animated video (also from NASA), which introduces the concept of sea level and how scientists measure it.
Changing Climate, Changing Cities (Grades 3-8)
Did you know that it can get so hot in Phoenix, Arizona (over 110°F!), that some residents have baked cookies in their cars?
In this lesson from the Nature Lab, students take a virtual field trip to Phoenix and Shenzhen, China, to learn why some communities are at greater risk than others and how everyone can be a part of the climate change solution.
Because this video is about 27 minutes long, we recommend chunking it out over the course of a few days using Live Mode, or having students watch it at their own pace as part of a flipped classroom experience.
Coal, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Mountaintop Removal (Grades 6-8)
40% of the carbon dioxide produced in the United States comes from burning coal for electricity, so it’s no wonder that coal companies are racing to find fast and cheap solutions like mountaintop removal.
In this fun yet thought-provoking teaching activity, students “mine” chocolate chips from cookies to help them understand what drives the coal-mining industry and how damaging their actions are.
Introduce how mountaintop removal became a popular method of mining and how it changes the natural landscape with this video from The Smithsonian Channel.
In this National Geographic video, students can learn about the environmental impact of mountaintop removal by listening to the stories of people living near mining sites.
The Legacy of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (Grades 9-12)
When Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, she exposed the harmful effects of the insecticide DDT on ecosystems. This inquiry-based lesson helps students understand the lasting effect of Carson’s book on the chemical industry.
To introduce the topic, students can watch this PBS video that explains the history of DDT and why people struggled to accept Carson’s findings.
‘Don’t Take Our Voices Away’: A Role Play on the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change (Grades 9-12)
In 2009, indigenous people from around the world met to discuss how to combine traditional knowledge with new practices to adapt to the effects of climate change as part of the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change.
This role-play activity introduces students to the important role that indigenous perspectives can play as the world attempts to respond and adapt to the realities of a quickly changing planet.
Use this video from the United Nations Development Programme to teach students about the case of the Maldives, an island nation that is struggling to cope with rising sea levels.
Ocean Dead Zones (Grades 9-12)
Can the ocean run out of oxygen? That’s the question this lesson by HHMI BioInteractive answers. It has students analyze a published scientific figure from a study on low-oxygen areas in the ocean known as dead zones.
Check out this Ted-Ed video to show students how a healthy marine ecosystem functions and what creates the lethal conditions that lead to dead zones.