Invest In Our Planet Climate Education Week Toolkit
2022 Invest in our planet Climate Education Week Toolkit
Invest In Our Planet
Climate change and other environmental degradations have broken our natural systems, leading to increased frequency of disasters, new and fatal diseases as well as a breakdown of the global economy. But just as climate change and Coronavirus painfully remind us of the harm we’ve caused, Restore Our Earth reminds us of the opportunities that lay ahead.
We must Invest In Our Planet not just because we care about the natural world, but because we live on it. Every one of us needs a healthy Earth to support our jobs, livelihoods, health & survival and happiness. A healthy planet is not an option — it is a necessity.
Climate Education Week
EARTHDAY.ORG acknowledges Climate Education Week each year on the days surrounding Earth Day. This year, Climate Education Week occurs April 18-22 with Earth Day on Thursday, April 22. This toolkit provides a daily focus for Climate Education Week related to the 2022 theme of Invest In Our Planet. It is designed for educators, parents or motivated students who want to explore ways to learn more about the local impacts of climate change and how we can work together to Invest In Our Planet through individual and community civic action.
Within each daily theme you will find activities, resources, calls to action, extension suggestions and interdisciplinary opportunities. Each day provides activity suggestions for three levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced), leading students from awareness to action throughout the week. The three levels do not correlate to a specific grade or age level but rather how familiar the learners are with the topic. We aim to present resources for a global audience of any age who want to help take action to Invest In Our Planet. Topics include: ecosystem services, the carbon cycle, food sustainability, ecosystem restoration and civic engagement around environmental issues.
This toolkit provides a wealth of resources for you to incorporate and utilize whenever they best fit into your curriculum at any point in the year. By using resources like this, we can work to build climate and environmental literacy in students all year long, not just during one week in April.
Thank you for all you do to help Invest In Our Planet. A healthy planet protects us and provides for us!
Restore our Earth Lessons and Activities
Explore the ways our environments (both built and natural) can affect our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and how we can improve these outcomes in our lives.
Have you ever felt sad on a cold, rainy day, only to be filled with energy when the sun comes out? Do you feel calm when you go for a hike through the forest or a walk along the beach? It is no coincidence that the natural world impacts almost every facet of our lives.
Environmental psychology might not be a familiar term to many people, but it is something we encounter every time we leave our homes. In simple terms, environmental psychology is the study of the relationship between people and their environment. The influence that both the built and natural surroundings have on our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors is the focus of environmental psychology.
Human behavior and emotions have always been closely tied to their natural environmentals. Human civilizations have been reliant on our natural environment, an idea called geographical determinism. Environmental factors such as access to water and food, climate, and topography have shaped human civilizations around the world.
Green spaces are open areas in typically urbanized areas that are set aside to showcase natural environments and vegetation. Examples include parks, community gardens and overgrown lots. As society becomes more environmentally conscious, fields such as climate and environmental psychology are becoming even more important as they explore human impacts on natural environments. More importantly, we are learning how access to green spaces is vital to both our physical and mental health.
Research shows that childhood exposure to green spaces can protect against development of depression and stress-related issues. This is because green spaces evoke feelings of tranquility, and are even shown to reduce aggression and violence. Areas that reduce emotional and physiological stress are known as restorative environments.
Other benefits of green spaces include promoting physical activity, increased socialization, decreased noise and air pollution, and improved immune function. Even passive exposure to green areas, like through a window, is shown to reduce anxiety and blood pressure. Social benefits of green spaces include reduced crime, increased productivity, and even economic stimulation.
Built environment: man-made structures and facilities, created to fulfill human purposes. Built environments provide us with spaces to live, work, and socialize. Parks and trails are considered part of the built environment because they are often man-made, but they serve as a connecting point to the natural environment.
Environmental Psychology: “The scientific study of the transactions and interrelationships between people and their physical surroundings (including built and natural environments, the use and abuse of nature and natural resources, and sustainability-related behavior).”-Journal of Environmental Psychology
Geographical Determinism: Asserts that human history, culture, society and lifestyles, development, etc. are shaped by their physical environment. Human social behaviors and actions are a response to the natural environment
Green Space: Open areas in land-use that are reserved for natural environments and vegetation.Green spaces typically include parks, gardens, open fields, and even cemeteries.
Restorative Environments: “an environment—often a natural setting—that rejuvenates a person and can help restore depleted attention resources or reduce emotional and psychophysiological stress”- APA Dictionary of Psychology
List 5 examples each of built and natural environments that you have experienced. Describe what you see in each different environment and make note of specific colors you see, activities going on (such as people walking around), and any sensations you might feel. What emotions do each of these environments evoke? For example, a hospital might be cold, full of artificial light, and make you feel uneasy or anxious. A park, however, might be full of lush greenery and make you feel energized. Compare and contrast your experiences with natural and built environments. Do you notice any trends?
In a group, design a green space for your school or community.. When creating your design, consider these things: What form does it take? Is it a park, a community garden, etc.? Where would you place this green space in your community- close to a school, near a body of water, or maybe an underserved area? What features would you include in this green space? Is there a trail or path? What kind of vegetation would you find? What would you want people to do there? Think about how different locations, features, and layouts can benefit our mental and physical health, and incorporate those into your design.
Working in groups, research a sub-topic of environmental psychology. Topics can include things such as urban planning, ecological restoration and how it benefits people, climate change and quality of life, permaculture, as well as many others. Think about how positive associations with outdoor spaces can lead people to make more environmentally friendly decisions.
Cross Cutting Activity
Applied Geography: Different regions of the world have different relationships with the environment around them. Explore different geographical regions. How might populations in colder, Arctic regions view their environment? Does this differ from populations, say, in a tropical rainforest? How might environmental views change from continent-to-continent? Do certain regional cultures have different views on the natural environment? Do certain cultures have similar views of the environment? Compare and contrast human-environment relationships from at least two different places.
- Culture plays a huge role in our perception of our environment. For example, many Indigenous communities treat their natural environment with significant respect, often tying different animals, natural events, and landscapes to different symbology and religious significance. Does this differ from your personal perception of the environment? How is it similar? How is it different?
- Environmental psychology demonstrates the connectivity between humans and our environment-both built and natural. What role does development and urban planning play in this dynamic? Knowing about environmental psychology, what are three ways planners can design indoor/ outdoor spaces?
- Knowing about environmental psychology, how can you change your behaviors to benefit your own or your family’s well-being?
Visit a restorative environment in your community! Tap into the mental health benefits of environmental psychology by practicing meditation and yoga. Explore a new trail with a walk or jog, and bring a friend or two! Do it again and bring two more friends!
Attend a community forum about an upcoming park restoration or development project. Share your knowledge of environmental psychology with council members to encourage park expansion in your community.
Identify issues with current industrial agricultural practices, and explore the ways regenerative agriculture can prioritize ecosystem health while feeding our world in a sustainable way.
Farming and food production is a very important process- after all, it’s what feeds us! The processes used to feed us, however, can greatly affect the well-being of humans and the planet. Agriculture is a huge part of many people’s lives. Globally, 1 in 4 people are farmers. It is important that we continue feeding ourselves in a sustainable way that can also support our planet.
Modern farming practices such as industrial agriculture consists of large scale intensive monoculture. Industrial agriculture also uses harmful chemicals and fertilizers to increase production, which is harmful to the soil. Use of monoculture and harmful chemicals causes soil erosion, which makes many crop fields unusable. Harmful chemicals used in fertilizers and pesticides also seep into local water supplies. Lastly, industrial agriculture is a large emitter of greenhouse gasses such as methane and carbon dioxide. The agriculture sector is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses and is a leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss.
Regenerative agriculture is a dynamic alternative to industrial farming as it looks at land use and management as a network of growth, exchange, and consumption. Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming practices that seeks to rehabilitate and enhance the entire agro-ecosystem by placing a heavy emphasis on soil health. The goal of regenerative agriculture is to restore soil and ecosystem health, reduce our carbon footprint, and improve the livelihood of farmers. Indigenous communities have practiced regenerative agricultural practices for generations. These Indigenous groups serve as teachers and models to follow, demonstrating how to live sustainably on our land.
General Mills’ Five Principles of Regenerative Agriculture:
- Promote biodiversity by planting diverse crops: our soil thrives with diversity. Crop diversity also reduces the economic burden of unfavorable conditions, and also makes it easier for us to diversify our nutrition!
- Keep soil covered with plants: keeping soil covered with plants acts as an armor against soil erosion.
- Minimize soil disruption by reducing tillage: The primary focus of regenerative agriculture, improving soil health, starts with reduced tillage. Tillage is any mechanical disruption to soil. This process releases carbon dioxide and water into the atmosphere. By reducing or completely eliminating tillage, carbon and water can stay in the soil, strengthening its health.
- Reduce use of artificial fertilizers and chemicals: artificial fertilizers and chemicals seep into the soil below, and can run-off into local water supplies. Spray chemicals can cause air pollution. By eliminating use of these chemicals, our soil, water, and air will be healthier.
- Use regenerative grazing management for livestock: integrating animals back into agriculture can help reduce the need for artificial fertilizers, improve soil health, decrease crop waste, and increase overall farm productivity.
Industrial agriculture: large-scale, intensive production of both crops and animals with the purpose of maximizing production
Monoculture: cultivation of a single crop in one area
Soil erosion: removal of the top layer of soil, which causes land to be unfertile
Regenerative Agriculture: an alternative approach to traditional agriculture, regenerative agriculture is a rehabilitative and conservation-focused approach to farming aimed at improving soil fertility and health, while sustaining food demands in a manageable way
Go on a walk in an area around your school or house. Notice the wide variety of plants that you are finding along your walk. Diversity is a natural part of our ecosystems. Conventional farming practices that use monoculture are the exact opposite, utilizing only one type of crop for the entire farm. Why is plant diversity important?
Perform a soil testing lab in class! Have students collect soil samples from around the school, discuss differences between soil types in general, in the student findings, and the naturally occuring soils in the area.
Have students watch the Kiss The Ground documentary in class, and ask students to make note of discussion questions and interesting points they notice throughout the watch. Then, engage students in a Socratic Seminar exchanging ideas and thoughts about the content.
Cross Cutting Activity
History: To honor the Indigenous origins of regenerative agriculture practices, research the history of Indigenous agriculture in your region. How do native communities celebrate land stewardship and sustainable farming practices? For example, research their use of intercropping, water management, agroforestry, and permaculture. How have these processes evolved throughout history? What can we learn from Indigenous community practices? How can you apply it to your life?
- What are some alternatives to industrial agriculture in your own home and your community?
- Are you willing to forgo certain produce at certain times of the year to have a healthier earth? What other behaviors can you make to your lifestyle to promote regenerative agriculture?
- What are some ways we can protect local farmers?
Test your knowledge of Regenerative Agriculture using our quiz! On your next family grocery trip, suggest purchasing produce from local growers or go visit a local farmer’s market. Shop for produce that is in season for your region! Visit USDA’s page, https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide for more information on seasonality of different fruits and vegetables.
Start a community garden at your school or in your neighborhood! Utilize the practices of regenerative agriculture in your garden by planting a variety of fruits, vegetables and other plants. Create a compost bin to use as a natural fertilizer. Add a cover crop to add nutrients to your soil and protect it from outside elements that can cause soil erosion. Consult environmental and gardening clubs at your school or in your local community for assistance.
Students will be informed on various green innovations occurring in the world around them and the roles engineers, designers, and creators take to bring these innovations to life.
As the effects of climate change become increasingly obvious, there is an urgent need for a change in how humans affect our Earth. Interdisciplinary action from across the globe has resulted in a myriad of green innovations to everyday life and environmentally conscious action will continue to be a growing facet of practically all career fields. These innovations have taken steps to reduce the harmful effects of environmental degradation as well as optimize the use of natural assets- such as opting for renewable resources and being conscious of carbon footprints.
When we think of the future of technology in a science-fiction sense, we see a world of gray, or hands off tech that eases human life in ways we haven’t even conceived of yet. However, the only way that the future can be achieved is through green technology that makes use of the resources we have and can ensure that the earth will still be around for all the advancements in technology generations to come.
Green innovations are not exclusively necessary in an engineering context, but also in terms of better marketability, design aesthetics, and conceptual creation which proves truly how interdisciplinary this topic is. There are some green innovations that seem like common aspects of life that did not start out as so: like composting or energy saving light bulbs.
Moving forward, investing in new innovative technologies will help to make green technology feel like everyday technology. Innovations in water purification such as desalination (turning saltwater into drinkable water) or agriculture, like vertical farming efforts and more could become as normal as a recycling bin in your backyard!
Green innovations bridge the gap between ideation and environmentalism, proving that the future of a green earth requires an entrepreneurial mindset.
- Carbon Footprint: The total amount of greenhouse gasses that are generated by the actions of a particular person, group, or business.
- Carbon Tax: A government set price that emitters must pay for each ton of greenhouse gas emissions they emit. Rather than cap-and-trade systems which historically have discouraged investments in carbon-reducing energy efficiency and carbon-replacing renewable energy, carbon taxes can be implemented more quickly and typically lend more immediate and lasting results.
- Desalination: The process of removing salt from seawater so that it can be used for drinking or irrigation.
- Green Innovation: a process that contributes to the creation of new production and technologies with the aim of reducing environmental risks, like pollution and negative consequences of resource exploitation (e.g. energy).
- Green Product: A product whose design and attributes use recycling, renewable, toxic-free, and/or biodegradable resources which improves environmental impact or reduces environmental toxic damage throughout its entire life cycle.
- Renewable Resources: An energy source that replenishes itself at the rate it is used and cannot be depleted thus being able to supply a continuous source of clean energy.
- Vertical Farming: The agricultural process in which crops are grown on top of each other, rather than in traditional, horizontal rows. Growing vertically allows for conservation in space, resulting in a higher crop yield per square foot of land used.
- Have students individually do research and make a list of 5 green innovations. In one sentence they can then share with the class what makes those innovations relevant to the environmental movement, and beneficial to the world.
- Have the class collectively design or create a vertical farming project, taking time throughout the semester to water/watch it grow. Have a brief lesson at the start of how it saves space/why it is more effective than traditional farming. At the end of the semester allow students to take some of what they grow home.
- Have students break into groups and tackle different renewable resources (water, solar, etc.) and have the students present the pros and cons of their renewable resource. Could be set up as a debate asking students to redesign the energy matrix for their community.
- Research green innovation success stories, such as this article from Interesting Engineering to show ways environmental policies and movements have reduced pollution or reversed diminishing populations of unique organisms. Present them powerpoint style or in video format of innovations in action so the class can see the various ways green innovations are succeeding.
Cross Cutting Activity
Informative Writing/Communications: Have students create a Adobe Spark video acting as a faux Vox-style video detailing a green innovation of their choice- whether one they found online that they find interesting or an invention of their own. Finding, researching, and creating a short 1-2 minute video about the invention and explaining why it should be implemented and having them shared with the class.
- Why are green innovations important to the future of our Earth?
- What does it mean to be a green innovator?
- Do you have any ideas of an invention that would be good for our earth?
- What careers could you pursue to be a green innovator?
- Who are the leading innovators in the environmental sphere that you know of?
Walk through your home or school and identify a place where a ‘green innovation’ would be an improvement, noting out anything from planting practices, water usage, and more. Then, using what’s been learned from this lesson, ask your parents, teachers, or school administrators to go green, and how to do so.
For more information see our advocacy packets on strategies for engaging school administrators.
As class, write letters to your school board, local, and state politicians to encourage them to support and transition toward green innovations. For more information, see our advocacy packets for strategies on how to do so.
Students will be able to learn about the importance of civic engagement and community action when working to address environmental issues.
Civic engagement is when an individual or group works to address community issues through advocacy and collective action. This involvement is crucial for building a thriving and sustainable community and addressing important issues as they arise.The first Earth Day was born out of an era that was plagued with environmental degradation and pollution that impacted human health. Organizers recognized the issue and were able to gather 20 million people in the United States to come together to attend teach-ins and marches to demand that the government take action to protect the environment. Within one year the US Environmental Protection Agency was formed and the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts were passed. This is an incredible example of how civic action at a large scale can drive much-needed change.
There are many ways to engage in large-scale civic action today, be it with the environmental movement or a variety of other movements addressing important issues. Taking civic action at the local level is also a great way to build civic skills and help shape your community. Community involvement can lead to long lasting relationships and drive change. It also leads to a better understanding of issues and provides more equitable solutions.
As you embark in civic action there are some important questions to consider. What issues are most important to you? Who is in charge of decision making on these issues? What is the most effective way to reach them with your message? What skills do you bring to the table? What is your personal story and how can you use it to motivate others? Who do you want to recruit to help you? Asking yourself these questions will help you plan your approach and add people to your team.
It is also important to consider our role in the movement and how our civic actions can be intersectional. Practicing intersectional environmentalism means to acknowledge and address how other forms of oppression compound the impacts of environmental issues and climate change. It is important to consider these questions before beginning, and to be willing to continue to reflect throughout the process. Who is most affected by these issues? How is this issue connected to social justice? What barriers might some people have to participate in civic action? What privileges do some individuals have that others do not while doing civic work? How can those individuals use their privilege to help lift up and amplify marginalized voices? How can you ensure all voices are heard? Asking these questions will better prepare you to identify environmental injustices and work toward just climate solutions.
Once learners have identified an issue and how they want to address it there are many strategies everyone can try to make a difference in the community. Outreach and education are some of the simplest ways to start building climate literacy in a community. Use every opportunity to start discussions to share information about local issues and start rallying your community to work together. Actions can include collecting signatures for petitions, organizing a letter writing campaign, conducting a social media campaign and hosting teach-ins. The following activities help learners build on their skills and confidence to have their voices heard in their community. Building civic skills to complement the content knowledge can provide hope for students that all is not lost when it comes to the climate crisis. There are things we can all do and that add up quickly when we all take actions. Every little bit counts!
- Civic engagement: When an individual or group works to build the knowledge and skills to make a difference and works to address community issues through advocacy and collective action.
- Collective action: Action taken by a group of people with the motive to achieve a common goal.
- Intersectional environmentalism: “An inclusive form of environmentalism advocating for the protection of all people and the planet. Identifies ways in which injustices targeting frontline communities and the Earth are intertwined.” – Intersectional Environmentalist
- Environmental racism: The disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. – ejnet.org
- Climate justice: A concept, and a movement, “that recognizes that climate change exacerbates environmental and public health challenges for women, minorities, indigenous and low-income communities, and fights to ensure that these communities have a seat at the table in creating and implementing climate resilient policies.” – NAACP Environmental & Climate Justice Program
- Representative: A person or group chosen or appointed to speak or act on behalf of others in a community.
- Advocacy: Activity or activities by an individual or group that works to influence the decisions of a political, economic or social institution.
- Barriers: Obstacles keeping an individual or group from accessing resources or participating in activities.
- Pollinator Garden Planning Worksheet (EARTHDAY.ORG): Practice observing pollinators near you and start designing a garden to provide healthy habitat for them.
- Food is too good to waste! (US Environmental Protection Agency): Have students learn about food waste and its impacts with this fun activity. Following the activity, they can also talk with their friends and family about ways to reduce food waste at home and in the classroom.
- Have students research an environmental issue that is important to them and present that topic to the class. Prompts for a presentation can include:
- How is this issue related to climate change?
- Why is this issue important to you?
- Does this issue impact your community?
- What can we do to improve the present situation of this issue?
- Earth Day Quizzes (EARTHDAY.ORG): Students can take our online quizzes to test their knowledge about our Earth and teach others about what they have learned. Explore our 51 Actions for Earth Day and pick a few to take!
- Have students make a video PSA explaining a local environmental issue and how it impacts the community. Include opportunities for students to take action and help make a positive impact. .
- Assign students events on the Environmental History Timeline or Environmental Justice Timeline to research and present to the class.
Cross Cutting Activity
Persuasive Writing: Have students identify an official that represents your community and write a letter urging the official to support an environmental bill of their choosing. They should present convincing talking points as to why it is good for the community and share with the official why they care about this issue. If a bill doesn’t currently exist, students can propose ideas of what actions need to be taken to protect the people and resources of your community.
- What is a community? What communities are you a part of?
- Who can take civic action?
- Who would you go to if you wanted to change something at home? At school? In your town?
- Who has the most say in decisions that impact your community?
- Who is impacted the most by environmental degradation?
- How do we include diverse voices in environmental decision making?
- Who is responsible for protecting the environment?
- Why is it important to learn how to advocate for changes in your community?
- After organizing a Restore Our Earth teach-in with parents, educators and community members from Day 1, follow up with your community about the actions you can take to address this topic.
- After assessing your daily habits for ways you can cut your energy use at home and at school on Day 2, make informational posters about ways your peers and community can do the same!
- After trying more plant-based meals on Day 3, share your favorite recipes with your peers.
- After participating in a cleanup in your community on Day 4, invite others to join you in future cleanups and register your events on the map!
- Use an EARTHDAY.ORG Advocacy Packet to create change in your community.