23 April 2008

Teaching Earth Day: The Social Response

Yesterday marked the 38th Earth Day.

Earth day abounds in activities, but only if you are well enough to participate in them. This year, my Kindergartener spent two weeks preparing for a day that she would miss by sleeping and healing, and there's no better way to prove that Earth Day is every day than to perform all the fun activities of Earth Day later.

Something, however, that will be missed is the wider social implications of Earth Day. There are newspaper articles, online actions, city- and non-profit- sponsored activities in the park, and random, small things done around town. To truly understand and get excited about a day that teaches conservation and sustainability, a child must see the world respond.

Here is a list of Earth Day activities and societal interaction we were able to observe without going wild with all of our planned events:

  • It's on the calendar. Yep, right there. Intermingled with lessons of Sunday Monday Tuesday and March April May is the small labels of holidays. Earth Day is right there on April 22, every year.
  • Activity posters. Thousands of dollars are spent printing advertising for events across the neighborhood. What better way to recycle than to pull one off a bulletin board the day of/day after and recycle it by displaying it in the classroom? You can discuss the artwork, the language, the advertised activities, the way the celebration is presented.
  • Grocery shop. Vitamin Cottage gave away one free reusable bag per shopper, and didn't offer any other bags to customers--no plastic, no paper. They'd give you a cardboard box, which has all sorts of utility. Just ask someone who's moving.
  • MySpace AddOns. Earth Day add-ons included widgets for planting a tree: if you planted the code on your page, a real tree would be planted in real life. I also found a "notebook" of earth-conscious tips to plant below the tree.
  • The comics: Family Circus, Zits, Blondie, and Beetle Bailey are a few strips that got in on the Green act.
  • The library. Children's sections of libraries are holiday conscious, moving and rotating thematic selections of books with the seasons. The best book my Kindergartener grabbed is Every Day is Earth Day: A Craft Book by Kathy Ross, Illustrated by Sharon Lane Holm. Seeds will sprout no matter how ill you are, and reading is a great getting-well pastime.
I haven't thrown anything away in the past few days, not counting all the tissues we'd gone through, which only gives us an empty box for another craft. Every reuse of some thing that could be trashed is noticed. The wild imagination of a child pushing environmentalism to the extreme is not only an important lesson for her, but for me as well. They say that teaching a subject makes you better at it.

In fact, I've heard it said that the best way to learn something is to teach it.

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