Introduction to Earth Day

Introduction to Earth Day

What is Earth Day? Why is it important?


3 - 5


Human Geography, Conservation

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Handouts & Worksheets: Celebrate Earth

Requirements: Internet access required; one computer per classroom; projector


Earth Day is a day to celebrate Earth’s environment and help raise awareness of threats to our planet’s health. Earth Day takes place every year on April 22 in the United States. You can learn about Earth Day in order to figure out how to help protect the Earth every day.


Teaching Approach: Learning-for-use

Teaching Methods: Brainstorming, Discussions, Reading

Skills Summary:

  • Critical Thinking Skills: Remembering
  • Geographic Skills: Acquiring Geographic Information, Answering Geographic Questions

1. Activate students’ prior knowledge.
Ask students if they have heard of Earth Day. Ask: What do you already know about Earth Day? What is Earth Day all about? Have a whole-class discussion about what students already know about Earth Day. Make sure students understand that Earth Day is one specific day every year when countries all over the world focus on protecting the environment.

2. Have students read a magazine article about Earth Day.
Have students read the National Geographic Explorer! magazine article “Celebrate Earth.” Then ask the following questions:

  • When did the first Earth Day take place? Why? (in 1970, because a senator from Wisconsin saw how dirty our air and water were)
  • What did people do at the first Earth Day celebration? (heard lectures, cleaned up trash, held parades, gave speeches)
  • What laws did the government pass to protect our environment? (cars must pass pollution tests, the Endangered Species Act protects animals in trouble)
  • What other countries celebrate Earth Day? (Mexico, Egypt, Russia, China)
  • What information did you learn from the article that was new to you?

3. Discuss environmental problems.
Ask students to name environmental problems that affect their daily lives. Write their responses on the board. Students should provide everyday examples, such as: too much trash, wasting electricity, and wasting water. Ask: Is it possible to have a big impact on the environment by making small changes? If students say no or are unsure, provide a concrete example to illustrate, such as taking reusable bags to a store to create less waste.

4. Brainstorm ways to make every day Earth Day.
Ask: Why might it be important to celebrate Earth Day every day? Elicit from students that we need to think about and protect the environment every day to help it most. As a class, look at the National Geographic Kids “Take Action for a Green World” article and talk about what it means to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Then have students brainstorm other examples of making small changes that have a big impact and explain their reasoning.

Extending the Learning

Have the class choose one way they would like to make every day Earth Day in your classroom, such as recycling paper or using less electricity. Ask students to suggest ideas and vote to choose one. Track the small changes your class makes and periodically remind them of the big impact of their daily actions. To celebrate the official Earth Day, have students create a school event. Ask them to partner with other classrooms to create awareness posters and write speeches for the event.

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Geography Standards

  • Standard 14: How human actions modify the physical environment
  • Standard 18: How to apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future

National Science Education Standards

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Terry Solowey
Christina Riska Simmons
Expert Reviewer
Karen Heys, M.A.T., Independent Education Consultant

Dany Ray of Washington Middle School in Cairo, Georgia, contributed classroom ideas for Standard 18.

Last Updated

March 27, 2024

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