n. a series of lectures and discussions on a subject of public interest
In 1969 Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin announced plans for the first Earth Day teach-in. Nelson and his staff estimated that 20 million Americans — from 10,000 elementary and high schools, 2,000 colleges, and over 1,000 communities — took action on April 22, 1970. Concerned citizens from all walks of life attended teach-ins across the United States, gathering to learn the facts about environmental degradation happening around them.
Earth Day teach-ins helped educate and mobilize citizens across America to demand that the government act to protect our land, our air, our water, and our lives. Ultimately, this activism led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and landmark legislation such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act. This process inspired others globally to adopt similar legislation and protections.
Earth Day Network is reinvigorating this spirit of educational activism to make the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day in 2020 as impactful as the first. We are calling on people around the world to take part in the 2020 Global Teach-In as we work to reach more than 500 million students worldwide. Across the world in classrooms of all sizes, including virtual ones, communities will be hosting teach-ins to offer enriched climate-learning opportunities.
Our resources are designed to help you organize your own environmental teach-in in your local community – schools, libraries, houses of worship, community centers, parks, and more. Reach out to your neighbors. Register your event. Tell the press.
- Commit to a seminar
- Plan program (first month, weeks 1 and 2)
- Confirm a date & location and select program topics
- Organize moderators and subcommittees
- Compose registration packets
- Secure a sponsorship to cover costs (second month)
- Promoting your event
- Compose text for letter/e-mail, brochure
- Assemble mailing list (target audience)
- Identify promotion activities
- Distribute brochure both electronic and hard copy
- Secure speakers
- Identify and make contact
- Confirmation letter
- Complete handout materials
- Day of event logistics
- Set up registration table
- Prepare signs to post on workshop doors to cue participants
- Make sure each room has necessary equipment and test any sound or projection devices
Organize a Planning Committee
The first step is to make a formal commitment and prepare a plan. If you are part of an organization, take a vote to do so, develop a committee with a co-chair, and look for participants to commit to specific elements. Develop a written plan that addresses your circumstances. Be sure to account for exams, semester breaks, etc. Planning the seminars is not terribly difficult, but the details make the difference.
Try to begin planning your event at least two months prior to Earth Day.
Finding an Event Space
You will need a main meeting place large enough to accommodate all your participants, and up to 8 to 10 side rooms for workshops.
Your main meeting place should be close to the meeting rooms. The building should be easily accessible for bus drop-off and pick-up. The buses will need a free place to park.
Once you have located a space, do what you must to get it formally committed. Get confirmation of the room reservations in writing. A true nightmare is to discover the rooms are not available the morning of the event because someone forgot this important step.
Weather permitting, consider holding your teach-in as an outdoor assembly! Your audience will be immersed in nature while learning about the importance of preserving it, and passerby’s may be encouraged to join in.
Select program topics and format
There are several options for topic selection. Earth Day Network offers a number of campaigns and resources to choose from. The best topic is one that relates locally to your community and that is easily actionable. A good example of this is a topic of plastic pollution and a cleanup which can be organized at a local river.
Workshops should be focused on local environmental topics or issues, while the main seminar should focus on overarching themes. This will require more research and preparation by your group. First, explore local environmental organizations and your state environmental agency for resources.
Organize moderators and subcommittees
It is a good idea to create small committees (of at least two people each) to plan each workshop. These subcommittees will have the responsibility for contacting and orienting the speaker, attending to audio-visual (AV) needs, and assembling the materials. ON the day of the event, moderators will make sure the meeting room is in order, introduce the speakers, direct registration to the program and be sure the workshop starts and ends on time.
Compose registration packets
As soon as you receive registration information from each participant, send them a confirmation letter that includes a map of the school, directions for student drop off, parking, and any other pertinent information.
Assuming there is no cost to use rooms and AV equipment, there are three areas of cost to consider in organizing this program:
- Brochure design and printing
- Materials reproduction
- Program supplies, including speaker expenses
Consider these expenses and prepare a budget. If funding is available or easily obtained from traditional sources, go for it. It is to your advantage, both financially and in developing new, on-campus resources, to seek institutional sponsorship from one of the departments in your college. The best source is the Director, Dean, or Vice President of Admissions, followed by your school’s Public Relations department. Reaching potential new students is their mission, and your program will showcase the school to potential applicants. If none of these outlets work out, try the Office of Sustainability or academic departments whose focus is related to your topics.
How do you do it?
Make an appointment and take the time to prepare a specific written request to bring with you. Don’t bring more than three people and demonstrate your seriousness. When you meet, describe what you are doing, make your pitch, offer your written request and answer all questions. If they cannot help, seek a suggestion as to who might, and move to the next person. Generally, you can expect a positive response.
Spreading the word
Develop the text for a letter or e-mail message and a flyer or brochure. Be sure to include the date and location. Remember, while the objective is to attract students, the information must appeal primarily to teachers, advisors and administrators. They will make the decision on whether to have their classes attend.
Use mailing lists
Check with your admissions office first to see if there is a list available campus wide, or for each individual school within the university (i.e. business school). Otherwise, contact the state education office. You are seeking a list of all public and private schools for the counties or parishes within two hours of your college. When you get the list, plan to send five separate copies of your brochure and brief summary to the Principal, Heads of the Biology and History Departments, Adviser to the Ecology Club or other environmental group, and President of Student Government.
Reaching out to potential speakers
Create a list of speakers you would like to have participate in your seminars. Once identified, the first contact should be attempted as an email with pertinent details, followed by a phone call. Once the speaker is confirmed, the presentation materials and AV needs should be discussed. If the speaker works for a private company or government agency, or if they reside in the immediate area, there is no need to discuss expenses. Citizens and non-profits coming from a distance should be asked if they need help with travel expenses. Unless you are otherwise determined to secure a particular speaker, it may be best to avoid paying unnecessary costs.
Getting everything ready for showtime
On the day of the event, all of your setup should be complete an hour before the event to allow for time for testing & troubleshooting, and to ensure that you can hit the ground running when the teach-in starts. Set up a registration table in a visible area and post signs to direct participants to the seminar. Make sure each room has the necessary equipment, and test any sound or projection devices.
There are other ways you can spread environmental awareness for Earth Day 2020 if a campus-wide teach-in is not an option. If you are an educator, find a date close to Earth Day on which you can fit a teach-in into your lesson plan, or invite a guest lecturer to speak. If you’re part of a student organization, dedicate a portion of a regularly held meeting to discussing a relevant environmental issue. Use some of the tips for teach-ins above to help these events run smoothly!