Celebrating Earth Day in Schools – Ideas from a Teacher

Happy Earth Day Sunbolt

This year marks the 52nd Earth Day! Earth Day was created by Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970. It was originally a national initiative to bring awareness of ecological issues, and has become a global phenomenon. For this Earth Day, several of Time Magazine’s People of the Year (Teachers!) agreed to be interviewed about how their classes or schools step up and celebrate Earth Day.

For some schools, Earth Day falls during Spring Break. In that case, they move Earth Day to another day but still celebrate all week long. “We move Earth Week, or Green Week, but we always celebrate,” says Lauren Martinelli, an Elementary Science Lead Teacher of Schools in Howard County, Maryland. The lead teachers are the science resource people for teachers in their school and in the county.

She is the 2021 Green Apple Award Recipient for teachers who go above and beyond daily responsibilities to increase student awareness of environmental issues. Howard County offers green leaders and green centers. Her school, Deep Run Elementary, is a sustainable school. Every 4 years they get recertified with MAEOE (Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education). 

Miss Martinelli reported, “In the past we have done a spirit week. One day we had a “TRASH”ion show, where the students make clothing and jewelry out of recycled materials. Then we have “Cave Day”, when kids are encouraged to keep the lights off. They read with flashlights on. In addition, the safety patrol does a trash clean up of the school grounds.

This becomes something the kids love to do!

At recess, we have even been asked by the students to keep gloves and trash bags outside so they can pick up trash. We always culminate the week with an assembly. We’ve had Eric Energy, an assembly about Maryland Terrapins and saving the Chesapeake Bay, where they brought terrapins to the school, and a variety of other assemblies geared at awareness.

Our courtyard is in the middle of our school. It’s our outdoor classroom. Students painted signs for the native species along with the art teacher and parent volunteers.”

Her suggestion for other schools is to find an area to clean up and plant native plants for Earth Week. At the end of the week, the school community can celebrate in that area. Using native plants in the courtyard has encouraged families and staff into converting their own yards into native gardens. Math can also be integrated by teaching area and perimeter lessons for designs for the garden.

deep run elementary

“It’s not just about Green Week, it’s about getting everyone excited about making a difference in their community and raising awareness that we all have a carbon footprint. We are a green school. Earth Day is just one day to propel us to better living habits. It’s about you teaching the kids who bring it home to their parents. And then it spreads throughout the community. It goes beyond the classroom and one little thing like a native plant can spread from one little garden to another house, to a neighborhood to a community, and even to a city. And it all started from a little seed,” Martinelli said.

The school’s Green Website can be found here: http://dresgreenschool.weebly.com/25-structures-for-environmental-learning.html

Just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, in a kindergarten class in Youngsville Elementary we find Mrs. Bethany Martin. Her class is already getting excited about Earth Day. This year, to commemorate the occasion, they will complete a recycling project. They will go out to the playground to pick up trash. They will also sort the various recycling items and are going to make up posters and put them around the school to promote recycling. 

Using crafts to celebrate Earth Day

Many primary schools use crafts to celebrate Earth Day. In Elkridge Maryland, one class will use coffee filters and blue and green markers to create the earth in color. The students will then spray the coffee filter with water to see the effect of diffusion. The end product will be different for everyone, but it will remind the students of the beautiful Earth in which we live. 

At the same school, the first grade students take styrofoam balls and paint them to look like the earth. “We cover planets at that time, so creating the Earth is a fun way to give the students a visual to take home with them. We also touch on recycling,” says Mrs. Harris. Their class also reads books and is learning a song about planets and their order in the solar system.

Earth Day books, music, and daily activities for students

A fourth grade teacher in her second year of teaching, said she hadn’t put too much thought into Earth Day. After talking to her for a little while, she decided that she will set up Earth Day books in her reading center and have her students complete a STEM activity that relates to Earth Day!

One music teacher mentioned that she sings with her students for Earth Day. “There are so many great songs out there about Earth Day. Laurie Berkner wrote a song called One Seed. It’s such a beautiful way to express your love of the Earth from one generation to the next.” She also shared that there are also Earth Day tunes to play on the recorder, though with COVID restrictions, recorder lessons haven’t recently been possible. 

Recycling and composting ideas for Earth Day

In New York City, at Stuyvesant High School, every day is Earth Day! Jessica Quenzer is a biology teacher at Stuyvesant who took a moment to share some insight as to the various ways the school community helps the Earth. “Stuy tries to be environmentally aware by default.”

We have recycling and composting bins in the cafeteria. We use earthworks, and maintain a rooftop garden. Some teachers grow herbs and vegetables in the classrooms. Hallway artwork is made of upcycled material such as bottle caps, packing peanuts, and leftover foam from modeling kits.” The Environmental Club also hosts an annual Earth Day Fair after school. Every year there is a new theme. This year’s theme is Earth Appreciation. You can see more by visiting the website

Sunbolt appreciates the wonderful teachers’ participation in our Earth Day post this year! 

Want to become an “Earth Day School?” If you celebrate Earth Day, you can sign up here if you haven’t already!

See how one campus went green using Sunbolt Solar Workstations:

 Contributed by Jillian Rydl, STEAM Teacher