Instead of only doing Earth Day activities with children on one day of the year, why not incorporate simple yet playful experiences into our early learning programs every week?
Because it's too hard coming up with new ideas every week Jodie! I hear you...But what if you didn't need a 'new' idea each time? What if your everyday routines, actions and projects were actually ongoing and continually evolving based on the children's interests, questions and their growing understanding of why it is so important to look after our Earth and how they can play a role in this? I'm going to give you the ideas and inspiration throughout this blog to help you do exactly that!
I purposely don't do blog posts and weekly newsletters
only focused on Earth Day because I feel it is more useful to incorporate earth day activities and learning principles everyday into our regular planning. It then becomes embedded practice not only for educators but also as a day to day experience for children.
Don't get me wrong - I love the concept and learning possibilities offered by celebrating and engaging with Earth Day which is recognised worldwide and was first celebrated in 1970 - but why add extra pressure to our planning by trying to fit in activities around power and water sustainability, recycling, upcycling, gardening, looking after living creatures and our world and of course a whole lot more all on one day or week of programming!
So let's simplify and explore some ways to help children connect and contribute to the world around them - while keeping it fun for educators, parents and children.
How can Educators add Earth Day Activities to every program?
So how can you quickly add a little 'Earth Day' to your weekly plan? I chose to add a section to my program template titled 'Exploring Our World' and every week I'd just add a few setup ideas, activities or environment changes to cover many of the Earth Day concepts as well as meeting Australian EYLF Outcome 2 - Children are connected with and contribute to their world. Doing it this way keeps planning simple but also effective and ensures children are consistently being provided playful opportunities to become socially responsible and show respect for the environment.
If you are a currently a subscriber to my Educator's Member Hub you can find activity guides already linked to this learning outcome and focus area on the Hub Playful Learning Page and the done for you monthly planners on the Hub Plans Made Simple page have additional activities to try, setup ideas and environment suggestions under the heading 'Exploring Our World'. Don't forget to look for the planner and guides in the age group category specific to your needs (babies up to school age).
Not a member of the Hub yet? You can find out how to join us inside here.
What Types of Earth Day Activities can Educators & Parents Introduce?
“Giving children regular access to interesting activities and information that will help them understand the importance of caring for their world now to ensure a better future as they grow, really doesn't need to be time consuming or complicated.”
Giving children regular access (through our early learning services, homes and schools) to interesting activities and information that will help them to understand the importance of caring for their world now to ensure a better future as they grow, really doesn't need to be time consuming or complicated - and you don't need all new equipment and expensive 'natural' resources!
To help you get started perhaps think about how you might focus on some of the areas and topics below:
Water, Energy and Power saving strategies.
Greener Cleaning methods that also allow children to be more involved.
Exploring and Respecting Living and Non Living things in our environment.
Recycling actions and systems embraced as everyday practice (with children!).
You could also use the topics above as prompts for reflection or to help you identify action steps to add to your quality improvement plan - Leaders might find it useful to incorporate some of the topics listed into team meeting agendas.
If you would like more step by step support to get started with introducing simple sustainability concepts and playful ways children can begin looking after their world, you will find the Empowered Ed Sustainability Resource Toolkit here helpful .
Simple Earth Day Activities to Inspire Action
I've put together a collection of ideas from around the world that you can use for further inspiration and projects to add to your Earth Day Activities Everyday planning. Simply click on the green links to learn more about each activity shared below. Let's do this!
Make a Worm Tower Together
It’s an easy project that will cost you very little in materials but offers many learning possibilities and intentional teaching moments while everyone is having fun out in the garden. What to know how to make one? See my instructions HERE.
Learn About the Composting Process
There are so many simple ways to show children how the composting process works through engaging activities and projects they can get hands on with.
Explore the Importance of Recycling through Play
Have Fun in the Garden - even if you have a brown thumb!
There are so many easy ways to get children excited about gardening. Keep it simple with these fun activity ideas.
Turn old plant pots into a garden scarecrow - a fun project to explore size, creativity and reusing old materials. See how we made and played here.
See how we saved the seeds from our sunflowers then used them to paint with here.
Use a dramatic play invitation like this one we set up in our backyard to introduce children to the principles of seed saving, farm to plate, selling and nurturing plants from seeds to seedlings to larger plants. And it's a whole lot of fun - why not set up a stall for children to sell their seedlings to parents, grandparents and carers visiting your early years service?
Learn about Pollution
These fun experiments are a great way to demonstrate the effects of pollution in our waterways.
Explore some fun ways to re-purpose those plastic bottles and stop them polluting our waterways with this huge collection of playful activity ideas.
Show Children how to Upcycle & Repurpose
Learning the importance and impact that consistent upcycling and reusing of materials can have on our environment, landfill and the world as a whole is essential for children. But when it comes to actually putting this into action AND making it fund for children it can be difficult to know where to start, what materials you should keep or collect and how you can begin modifying old items to turn them into something new – especially if you aren’t a crafty or creative type!
So how can educators and parents introduce this learning concept to children?
If you need a little inspiration or a few easy ideas to help you get started on re purposing projects with the children or making your own resources for play to help the budget you can click on the images below to find the help you need with the activity ideas and tips I have put together for you!
Most of the projects are very easy and their are many that the children can also participate in with you so why not try getting creative with natural and recyclable materials or upcycle and turn an object into something with a new purpose!As you do you will be providing valuable learning outcomes for young children AND helping our environment!
Making our own resources allows educators to explore their own creativity and also provide opportunities for children to be involved in the process of creating something new from basic materials or even helping to re purpose a material into something different to play with in another way from how it was first intended.
These are valuable skills and help support our children to develop a respect for the world around them and raise awareness of unnecessary waste which harms the environment we live in. I've shared 22 fantastic ideas from our clever Empowered Educator Facebook Community for you to try here.
Use the Empowered Educator community member ideas shared in this blog post to help you come up with new and different projects to try – not as something you have to recreate! Take an idea from here and there and modify until it suits the material, children and spaces that you have available.
Love wooden or plastic spools and reels but not sure how to use them for early learning?
Incorporating tyres/tires creatively as a resource into outdoor play spaces saves them ending up in landfill piles and invites opportunities for children to engage in open ended play and explore with their imagination, problem solving skills, language and big and small muscles.
Wooden pallets are another simple material that can be re-purposed into so many different resources for early learning and outdoor fun.
Follow our simple steps here to build your own mud or sand kitchen like the one we made from pallets above.
If you want more ideas to reuse those pallets you have been hoarding in the corner of the yard click here to check out this collection for inspiration.
Before you throw out those ugly old plastic chairs find out how we repurposed and upcycled them to create 2 new resources for outdoor play. Our first project was this bus/train you see below (or whatever the children decided it was each day!).
Our second project was the creation of this small climbing trestle set made from the legs of the chairs that we removed for our bus project - perfect play equipment for toddlers!
Explore the Earth with Craft
Use simple crafts to open discussions about the Earth's surface, what it looks like from space and what the different colours on the surface represent. You can also incorporate some research using technology and the internet to explore images and videos of what Earth really looks like and use those as an opportunity to revisit why it's so important we all do our part to protect our community and Earth.
Consider Greener Cleaning Alternatives for Work & Home
Growing numbers of children – (including my own so I have done a lot of research the last few years about this topic) have a sensitivity to many of the cleaning products on the market today. They may worsen asthma, allergies and other sensory sensitivities and they can also contribute to behaviour issues and heighten some learning difficulties.
Perhaps you could investigate the possibilities of using some of these greener cleaning practices to reduce our chemical load and what we are exposing young children to on a regular basis.
Encourage Wildlife & Mini Beasts to your Garden
Inviting living things into garden and play areas provides playful opportunities for children to become active learners as they investigate and see firsthand, lifecycles and the food cycle in action while also learning to respect and care for the environment around them!
Living critters likes bees, insects, worms, lizards, birds and more are an important part of the outdoor learning space for children so it's important to embrace the possibilities!
We made our own birdbaths to brighten up the garden and provide a place for birds to access water and keep coming back! See how to make one here.
I hope you are now feeling inspired to include a few 'Earth Day' activities into your everyday routines, play spaces and programming. Celebrate Earth Day each year...but then keep the learning going every week using the ideas in this blog!
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A Little About Me
Jodie Clarke is an early childhood professional supporting educators who want and need to stay passionate about the work they do! She has 30 years hands-on experience in the early childhood and human services sectors across many different roles.
Jodie is mum to 3 in Australia and has already helped thousands of educators with their work through her popular blog posts, activity ideas, online training and e-books.