EARTH DAY EDUCATION FOR PARENTS
Welcome! Here are some ideas of activities you can do with your kids to teach them about the environment and living sustainably.
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In the House
- Come up with art and craft ideas that you can hang around the house to serve as reminders to your family to turn off lights, electronics and water fixtures when not in use. Use recycled and non-toxic art materials!
- Show your kids where your thermostat and/or water heater is located. Explain how it works. Then, explain that by setting your water heater at 120°F and the thermostat two degrees cooler during winter months and two degrees warmer in summer months, your family will save a lot of energy!
- Make your own cleaning products from ingredients such as lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda. Tell your kids you need help mixing them up in the kitchen chem lab and they may even stay to help with the chores!
- Read books or watch films about nature. Then go outside and see what you can find in your own yard or neighborhood!
- Make eco-jewelry. Re-use pop tops, bottle caps or other scrap objects to make beads, necklaces, etc. You can also make beads out of rolled up scrap paper or plastic bags and glue. Be sure to talk about re-using materials instead of throwing them away.
- Make recycled paper by ripping up old scrap paper and newspaper, mix with water/paste to make pulp, stir/blend and press onto screens to flatten. Let dry and then decorate or sew together to make a book!
- Calculate your family’s ecological footprint or do a home energy or water audit to determine how much electricity, water and other resources you are using and find ways to reduce consumption to save money and emissions.
- Swap out light bulbs together and explain that CFLs last 10 times longer and save $22 a year per bulb! Be sure to properly dispose of bulbs.
- Hunt for leaks together! Check windows and doors for drafts by holding a ribbon or small piece of paper next to the seam – if it moves, you have a leak! Make a map of the house, mark the leaks and make a plan for fixing or insulating. Weatherize your home and calculate the utility savings together!
Did you know?
- The average household spends as much as $500 per year on its water and sewer bill but could save about $170 per year by retrofitting with water-efficient fixtures and incorporating water-saving practices.
- Showers can account for 2/3 of water heating costs, so keep those hot showers short!
- Repair leaky faucets or showerheads. One drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year.
- Turning off the tap while you brush your teeth can save 8 gallons per day! If you reduce your garbage by 10%, you can reduce your carbon footprint by 1,200 pounds per year.
- Reduce your carbon footprint by 500 pounds per year by washing with cold water, and even more by air drying!
- Reduce your carbon footprint by up to 2,000 pounds per year by adjusting your thermostat.
- Click here for household energy efficiency information.
- Click here for information about installing solar at your school or home.
In the Garden
- Adding native plants or shrubs to your landscaping will attract more nature. Study the insects, birds and mammals who turn up. Convert your yard into a National Wildlife Federation certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat and receive an official plaque!
- Collect food scraps and yard waste and start composting. You can use the compost in your yard and garden as organic fertilizer. It’s also a great way to teach kids about biology and decomposition.
- Turn your yard into a rain garden!
- Plant an herb garden, vegetable garden and fruit trees. Planting a variety will allow you to harvest all year-round. Teach children about the different nutrients or benefits related to different types and colors of foods. Be sure your kids help with the planting, harvesting and cooking and they might actually eat their vegetables.
- Survey the plants in your yard and decorate a map showing their locations. Record flowers’ blooming times, color, shape, scent, and any insects or other animals that might be visiting the flowers. For fruits, note types (e.g. berries or nuts), color, and any animals that might be eating them.
- Help local pollinators by providing vital nesting areas for native bees. You can buy or construct bee houses or small cavities for nesting. To purchase a solitary bee house, contact Acorn Naturalists, or build your own by drilling various-sized holes in a block of wood or even sticking straws into a cardboard box.
- Conduct a soil assessment. Earthworms are one of the best indicators of healthy soil. Look for earthworm castings in your lawn and dig below to find worms. Compare the number of worms you find in different types, layers or areas of soil.
- Grow or find plants that make natural dyes. Tie-dye old clothes or dye yarn and knit something for a friend!
Did you know?
- The average suburban home uses at least 30% of its water for outdoor purposes (up to 70% in dry climates!)
- More than 50% of landscape water is wasted due to evaporation, wind, or overwatering.
- Water your lawn or garden during cooler morning hours to reduce evaporation. Be sure you are not watering your street or sidewalk!
- There are hundreds of species of bees busily pollinating plants across the U.S., even in urban areas. Many plants depend solely on these species. Pollinators account for over $150 billion worth of food worldwide every year, especially fruits and vegetables.
- Click here for information about building a garden at your home or school.
- Look for birds that come to your yard or neighborhood and observe their behavior. Are they feeding? Building a nest? Protecting their territory? Grooming? Use a bird guide to identify and learn more. Keep a list or chart near your window, along with some binoculars.
- Research native birds and build a birdhouse or birdbath near your home. Reuse an old plastic bottle or make birdfeeders from seeds, peanut butter or suet smeared on a pinecone or stale bagel. Or build a bat house and get rid of some mosquitoes!
- Use a telescope to view stars or count Saturn’s rings. Celebrate the International Year of Astronomy in 2010 by ordering and building your own telescope.
- Garden plants and wildflowers often leave interesting seed pods. Collect these and make dried flower arrangements or add them to wreaths or table decorations. Visit meadows to gather a wider selection.
- Visit a nature center, join an astronomy club, or start geocaching as a family.
- Build a solar oven with tin foil and a shoe box and teach your kids about energy from the sun. Make some food in the process and have a picnic!
- Make art from materials found in nature. Use natural pigments, make leaf rubbings, or make a mobile out of interesting sticks and shells.
- At night, hang a white sheet near a light (especially a UV or black light). Visit later to count and identify the moth species attracted to your sheet.
- Make a mixture of over-ripe bananas, molasses and beer and spread it with a brush on tree trunks. Come back in a few hours to find out if you attracted butterflies and other colorful insects.
- Have your family join or start a neighborhood association to adopt streams and natural areas. Organize or participate in projects such as water monitoring, tree planting, alien plant removal, litter clean-ups and Earth Day celebrations.
Did you know?
- Rachel Carson said, “It is not half so important to know as to feel when introducing a young child to the natural world.” Providing opportunities to experience and observe nature can inspire children to become more curious and to want to learn more.
- Kids (and adults) now spend up to 90% of their day indoors. Get outside!
On the Go
- Take family walks or bike rides and talk to your kids about the importance of reducing emissions while getting fresh air and exercise.
- When shopping, have a scavenger hunt to find products that are local, organic, non-toxic or have reduced packaging. Teach your kids to read the labels on foods and to consider the entire lifecycle of a product.
- Support local small stores – get to know your neighbors and introduce your kids!
- Teach children how to check tire pressure on your vehicle and explain that inflated tires get better gas mileage. Have them check regularly to see if the pressure needs to be adjusted.
- See if your gas station uses vapor recovery devices on the nozzle (many municipalities require them to be used.) These prevent harmful gases from entering the atmosphere.
- Find farmers’ markets in your area to buy locally grown fruits, vegetables, dairy products and flowers. Visit weekly and see if you can even help with picking produce or other farm chores.
Did you know?
- You reduce your carbon footprint 20 pounds for each gallon of gas saved.
- A bicycle is 100 times more energy-efficient than a car and pedaling uses about 1/3 less energy than walking.
- Go camping, canoeing, hiking or other outdoor vacation.
- Take your family on a hike through the woods. Spread out and spend a few minutes drawing or writing a poem about your surroundings. Get together and share.
- Make a nature journal of the plants, animals, and natural scenery that you discovered. Make a scrapbook of the mementos of your trip.
- Collect rocks, fossils or seashells from your family vacation spots.
- The United States has over 390 units in the National Park System, including historic sites, battlefields, monuments and spectacular parks. Buy a National Park Passport book and collect stamps from each site that you visit.
Did you know?
- You can green any aspect of a vacation, from the destination to the mode of transportation. Be aware of your carbon footprint and your eco-impact on the local environment.
- A single cross-country plane flight uses about 1 ton of carbon dioxide per passenger!
- Some organizations and individuals plant trees to offset the carbon used for travel.
- Instead of buying decorations, make them by using old paper and school supplies. Make new cards from old cards or magazines, make wrapping paper by decorating old paper bags, cut snowflakes out of used worksheets or make paper chains with old wrapping paper or scraps from other art projects.
- Have kids help make candy, cookies or meals and have a discussion about healthy food and where the ingredients come from. Plan healthy holiday meals using only local, seasonal ingredients.
- Have a gift exchange with other families where everyone brings used clothes, toys and books, or donate them to families in need.
- Buy local sustainable flowers, wreaths, trees or other holiday greenery.
- Have your kids make gifts for family and friends. Create decorations from found natural materials such as evergreen branches, pinecones, or seedpods, melt old crayons into candles, make a crazy quilt with old fabric, or create and frame art. Give gifts from the heart, not from the store!
- Unplug your kids and get them outside by giving gifts such as sleds, bike helmets, kites, compasses or binoculars.
Did you know?
- LED holiday lights use up to 90% less energy and can save your family up to $50 on your energy bills during the holiday season!
- Americans throw away 25% more trash - an additional 5 million tons - between Thanksgiving and New Year's eve.