5 Outdoor Activities for Earth Day

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April is a month full of exciting events.  Spring is rolling in, flowers are beginning to sprout, there are holidays like Easter to celebrate and summer is a little bit closer.  One time that is often overlooked is Earth Day.

This year Earth Day is on Wednesday, April 22nd. Although 2020 has been a crazy, confusing whirlwind, there is no better time to celebrate our planet and nature.  Whether you are back in school or homeschooling, I've compiled a list of five different activities that will have you and your kids excited about nature.

1. Nature Walk

Photo by Hannah of Wild and Growing

One of the simplest ways to celebrate nature at any time is by going on a nature walk.  It's a great way to kickstart your Earth Day celebration.  When you immerse yourself in nature you become keener to protecting the planet.  Pick a local trail to bring your family to.  Instruct them to walk slowly and use their senses.  A great nature walk is one where you take the time to hear your surroundings and to notice things that might have gone unnoticed if you didn't slow down.

It is important to note that during recent events some trails are closed and you should still be practicing social distancing.  Find a trail with very little people, if the trail is crowded, go somewhere else!

You may want to bring along a field guide or scavenger hunt if you fear some of your kids might have a hard time focusing.  You will be surprised to find some of your most unruly kids being the most engaged in this activity!  Kids learn better when surrounded by nature.

2. Plant a Garden

Photo from pixabay.com
Another great way to celebrate Earth Day is to plant a garden.  Planting a garden is a practical life activity that teaches science, math, and responsibility.  Children will have a blast planting the seeds and watching them grow.  You can make the garden an even more exciting task by planting some seeds that will grow into something edible. Once the plants begin producing vegetables, make a delicious meal together using them as the star ingredient.  Radishes are one of the quickest growing vegetables, it takes them about a week to mature.

The garden can also be a great place to journal and observe wildlife.  Create a study to see which birds visit the garden the most or common pollinators in the garden.  Graph the growth of each plant as a class.  Create a watering schedule so that each kid gets a chance to be involved.  In my shop, I have a great Gardening Journal that can get your kids learning while helping out in the garden.

3. Design and Build a Birdhouse

Photo from pixabay.com
Earth Day is all about celebrating the natural world around us.  Springtime is an excellent time to learn about birds.  Creating a birdhouse is a fantastic activity that will not only get kids involved but it also benefits the community.  The birdhouse could be a gift or an addition to the garden you just planted together.

The birdhouse does not need to be complicated unless you want the added challenge.  It will teach your kids some practical life skills such as gluing, using a hammer (be sure to supervise), sanding, and more.

An extension to building a birdhouse could be to also learn about local common birds to the area.  All birds create unique nests and have different preferred places to nest.  Therefore, when you build the birdhouses, which bird are you trying to attract and how do you plan to attract them?

4. Clean Up a Local Park

Photo from pixabay.com
A classic Earth Day activity is to give back to the planet and your local community by cleaning up a park.  Take your group to a nearby park or even school grounds to pick up trash and to make the area look a bit better.  You'll want trash bags and gloves for this.

It's easy for kids to view this activity as a chore or unpleasant.  I've found that discussing the life of trash helps.  It is hard for children and adults to conceptualize that most trash that they produce will be on the planet for much longer than their lifetime.  Plastics, for example, will be on this planet for hundreds, most likely, thousands of years.  Some items, like glass, do not decompose at all they only break down into smaller and smaller pieces polluting the land further.

When we properly throw away trash and recycling, we are not negatively impacting local wildlife as much as we would if we littered.  In fact, cleaning up local parks ensures that wildlife does not mistake trash for food or materials to build nests out of.

5. Create a Butterfly Garden

Photo by Hannah of Wild and Growing
This tip is similar to planting a garden, but did you know that a butterfly garden can be very different from a regular vegetable garden?  When planting a pollinator-friendly garden it is important to plant native species that will attract them.  If you live in the North East, USA, like me, you might want to plant coneflowers (like the one in the picture above), sunflowers, lilac, mint, etc.  If you want a full list of pollinator-friendly plants, check out this helpful resource from UNH.

In addition to planting plants that will attract pollinators, you may also want to include places for your friendly visiting butterflies to rest and recharge.  Some butterflies like to sit in water to soak up the nutrients and salt from the water, this is called puddling.  You can encourage this in your garden by setting out a shallow dish full of water, similar to a birdbath.  Another thing you can add to your butterfly garden is a butterfly feeder.  These usually are shallow dishes with overripe fruit or tree sap for the butterflies to eat.

Creating a butterfly garden is quite easy to do.  Beautiful your home or school grounds with a patch of flowering plants and work together to create a butterfly bath and feeder.  Once your butterfly garden is complete, take some time to observe any butterflies that visit.  For a more educational study, you may want to graph the butterflies and document how many come to visit.

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I hope these 5 tips help you and your students get outside for Earth Day this year.  All of these ideas are perfect for distance learning and homeschooling.  They also require very little materials.  

Take some time to go outside and have an adventure!
Hannah
Wild and Growing

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