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Earth Day: One of the Great Education Days of the Year

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 -- Scott Sterling

From its start in 1970, Earth Day has grown to become one of the great educational opportunities of the year. Every April 22nd, students from around the world learn about the environment and what they can do to help the planet. In fact, it was envisioned to be an environmental “Great American Teach-In,” but it’s become so much more.

Earth Day is typically the domain of the science teachers, with good reason. They have no trouble finding resources and lessons, the most impressive collection being found at the Environment Protection Agency site. But here are some great lesson ideas from key environmental resources that can be used in the other major subject areas leading up to Monday.

Math: Fuel Economy and Environment Labels

From our friends at the Environmental Protection Agency comes a great lesson on effectively reading the fuel economy and environmental labels that come on cars. Students are then asked to calculate the costs and emissions from our vehicles. There is one lesson geared for middle school and another for high schoolers.

English/Language Arts: The Daily Waste Times

The Cornell Waste Management Institute developed a great lesson that requires in-depth analysis of the newspaper, both as a source of information and a source of opinion, to find and recreate information about waste management and recycling. Students are broken into groups much like the sections of a newspaper (local, editorial, etc.) and are asked to create a researched article or column for the classroom “newspaper.”

 Geography: Navigating the Niger

The Niger River delta in Africa is undergoing tremendous environmental changes as oil production has come to this once wild territory. This lesson plan from the National Geographic Society goes in depth to describe the history behind the delta, what is currently taking place, and what might be done to help. This unit is so expansive that it might merit some cross-curricular lessons with your friends in other departments.

In fact, no matter your subject area, you should reach out to your friends in other departments. The other holidays of the year are a little difficult for some of the subjects to lesson plan around, but Earth Day truly can be used as a catalyst for learning across the curriculum.