Here are three really amazing Earth Day activities for your elementary classroom that all include math. I’ve done them all and they’ve been memorable, educational, and fun! The best part is they always lead to deep moral and ethical conversations.
1. Hold a Trash Free Lunch Picnic: This is a two day project. The first day, you ask the students to keep track of how many pieces of trash they have as they eat lunch. For the second day, you send home a note asking parents to pack a trash free lunch, (as trash free as possible) to see if you can cut down on the amount of trash. On the day of the trash free lunch, you ask the students to count how many pieces.
We kept track on a tally chart and realized the impact we can have if we change one simple thing, how we pack our lunches! Then, the students draw a bar graph or a pie chart to show the results of the tally chart.
2. Build a Solar Oven and Bake S’Mores: Show a tutorial for how to make a solar oven a few days before Earth Day. Here is one that could be made from a pizza box!
Tell the students to bring their own supplies from home (cardboard boxes, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, tape) and give them time to make them when they first get to school. It took our class about 2 hours. The math involved is awesome, measurement, measurement and more measurement! I brought the graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows and they melted like crazy in the sun. It was super fun! Here are a few photos.
3. Study an Important Environmental Issue and Act on it: Perhaps the best Earth Day activity we’ve done is something that felt meaningful, like we could make change happen! We studied the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by watching videos, reading about it, doing some math problems surrounding conservation, and by writing persuasive letters. We ended the project by doing a water pollution science experiment.
Here is a video about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch if you haven’t heard about it (Depending on the age of your students, you may be able to show it to your class.):
Here are some photos of us trying to “clean” water, so students could find out how truly difficult it was. As they work, each tool they borrow from me costs them money. They have to keep track of the cost of their clean up.
The bottom line, is there are so many things that students can do to learn about alternative energy, and to study current environmental issues. Instead of encouraging them to recycle with a coloring sheet or a worksheet, engaging them in these issues will help them feel an authentic push to do it!
I love Earth Day and the awareness it brings to young people! What kinds of things do you do with your class on Earth Day? Share below in the comments. 🙂