Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Learn about Earth Day through online activities

Earth Day is coming up - April 22 is the date to celebrate! Until then, you can spend a little or a lot of classroom time teaching your students about the history of Earth Day, about recycling, renewable and non-renewable resources, carbon foot prints and all kinds of exciting stuff!

There are a million good educational sites about Earth Day - a simple search will turn up more pages than you would ever care to look at. So for the purposes of this post, and in keeping with the theme of "EdTechSec", I have narrowed the list down to 9 that span all grades, require NO registration or sign up, have been widely reviewed as being high quality, and are EASY teaching tools that students can sit right down and use.

For young beginning readers, Starfall has a great reading activity on their site called "Every day is Earth Day". It is in Starfall's typical format, and kids can use the site themselves to navigate through a story about Earth Day while also learning how to pronounce key words - this is a great independent activity for young kids, and very informative as well.

No Earth Day study is complete without figuring out our "footprint". There are lots of calculators out there, but this one for kids called Zerofootprint is the easiest and most user friendly. Most elementary students can use it unassisted.

For intermediate and junior high grades, Scholastic News has some great (and good reading level) articles about Earth Day, and what kinds of activities and community projects kids are doing in different places around the U.S. to make this day meaningful. These are great independent online readings kids can do as a tie-in to classroom activities.

For older students, the History Channel has a nice page with videos, a section called "What Can I Do" for ideas about how people can get active about conservation, and a tool (more appropriate for older students) for how to calculate your "footprint". There is also a downloadable podcast that kids could listen to (for homework??).

One of my favorites in this list - Starbucks Coffee is hosting a cool site called the "Planet Green Game". This is a pretty neat simulation in which the player must explore a fictitious town called Evergreen to look for ways to reduce CO2 emissions. It's a really engaging game that kids in intermediate grades through high school would really like. There are lots of challenges along the way to help the player earn points. The point of the game is to promote the idea of looking beyond traditional ways of doing business to reduce our impact on the planet. No registration, just click on the link and start playing!

Of course PBS Kids has their EekoWorld site replete with games, videos, and activities that are appropriate for all elementary students. Lots of good information and activities on recycling, air, and water quality that kids can understand. Kids can easily navigate this site.

Another online educational standard - Scholastic - has a neat game called "Virtual Forest Challenge". It takes kids through a typical kid day, where they are called upon to constantly make choices about how their actions will affect the environment. At the end of the game, they can see their score which identifies how much positive or negative impact they had on the environment in a typical day. Great for elementary kids - no registration, just play - very user-friendly.

One more great interactive for older students is a site called Consumer Consequences. The premise is that the earth couldn't support all its residents if everyone lived like a typical American. The activity will give the player an idea of how many planets it would take to support our lifestyle on a planetary scale, and ideas about how to make our footprint a little smaller.

Planet Pals hosts a site aimed at elementary students (and their teachers and parents) that is packed full of information, lesson ideas, activities for home and school, and games. It's all educational, simple to access, and kid friendly!

Finally, a site that is just dedicated to Earth Day arts and crafts - there are a wealth of ideas on here for some easy "recyclable" crafts that bring home the idea of Earth Day. A wide range of ages would enjoy these, and none look difficult. I am especially intrigued by the dog food scooper made out of a laundry detergent bottle!

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