For far too many years, the state of the environment had been a non-issue in American politics. At the time that the idea for a nationwide environmental protest to shake up the establishment and put environmental issues on the political agenda, leaded gas was being consumed by automobiles with V8 engines, industry was polluting the air and water with smoke and sludge, and global warming had not yet become a public concern.
Earth Day History
Gaylord Nelson, then a United States Senator from Wisconsin, thought it was necessary to take a stand against the indifference to the plight of the environment and founded the first nationwide observance of Earth Day. On April 22, 1970, Nelson’s idea, with the help of Denis Hayes, national coordinator, finally came to fruition. Twenty million Americans rallied to voice their protest in the streets, parks, and auditoriums. They demonstrated for a clean, sustainable environment.
In 1990, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries, putting environmental issues on the world stage. When the millennium arrived, the message was being sent that citizens, world-wide, wanted a clean environment and clean energy. The battle for a clean environment and a solution to global warming continues to this day. Education and awareness of environmental issues have become an important public forum with the annual observance of Earth Day.
Earth Day Projects and Crafts
There are many Earth Day-themed crafts that adults and children can do together to observe Earth Day. Crafts using recycled products include such projects as tin can herb pots, laundry jugs renovated as pet food scoops, recycled flower pots, eggshell planters, decorated compost bins or recycling bins, plastic jug watering cans, milk carton bird feeders, terrariums, and indoor and outdoor gardens.
Detailed instructions for creating each of these Earth Day projects can be found on the website listed in the Resources section of this article.
Games and Activities for Earth Day
One activity that families can do together is to pitch in and clean their homes, porches, and yards with toxin free cleaning and gardening products. “Go green” and Go organic” are the operative words when it comes to home cleaning and home gardening.
Families and schools can view Earth Day-themed films in observance of the day. According to Hope Boyarsky, writer for the environmental website, Kaboose, the best environmentally themed films include Fly Away Home, The Day After Tomorrow, Free Willy, The Lorax, part 2, March of the Penguins, Ant Bullly, Erin Brockovich, An Inconvenient Truth, FernGully: The Last Rainforest, and Wall-E.
Parents and teachers can captivate their children’s and students’ imaginations and teach them about the environment by making available for reading and discussing environmentally-themed books. Kim Moon and Michael Alexander of the environmental website, Kaboose, recommend the following titles:
For younger readers, recommended choices include One Light, One Sun by Raffi, Swimmy by Leo Lionni, The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers, Quiet in the Garden by Aliki, Children of the Earth:Remember by Schim Schimmel, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest by Lynne Cherry, and The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.
For older readers, recommended choices include Keepers of the Earth:
Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children by Michael J. Caduto, and The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino.
There are fun online activities, games and quizzes for children to play and explore for Earth Day observance. The online games can be accessed at the website listed in the Resources section of this article.
Teaching Children Environmental Awareness
Parents can make their children more environmentally aware by teaching them to preserve energy in the home by turning off lights and appliances when not in use. They can teach children to preserve water by not running water unnecessarily or wasting it. Parents can teach children to recycle, sort recyclables in recycle bins, and take them out for pick-up. Parents can demonstrate to children how food and scraps can be used for compost for yards and gardens. Parents can encourage children to recycle clothes or toys they’ve outgrown by donating them to Good Will or some other thrift store, donation center, or church.