12 Meaningful Earth Day Activities for Every Grade

Roll out the green carpet in your classroom.

Sponsored By PBS LearningMedia
Forest with "Earth Day Ahead" street sign

Our students are the future caretakers of our Earth. These fun Earth Day activities help empower kids to have a positive impact on the planet. From recycled art projects to farming simulations, here’s how to roll out the green carpet in your classroom on Earth Day this year.

1. Engineering for Good (6–8)

pile of old plastic bottles -Earth Day ActivitiesYour middle schoolers know that drinking plenty of H2O is good for them, but they may not realize the impact all those plastic water bottles have on the environment.

In this project-based learning unit, they’ll design their own solutions for this issue by using engineering. Then they’ll create digital stories to share their ideas with the community.

Bonus: The lessons are aligned with the NGSS Engineering Design Standards.

2. Design It … Build It! Earth Day Activities (1–12)

Egg Carton With Paint Inside - Earth Day ActivitiesIn this art activity, students learn how to take their ideas from paper to reality. They’ll use recyclable materials to design, draw, and build a creature, building, or whatever else they can imagine.

Through videos, activities, and lessons, students learn about the importance of recycling. They’ll also learn about which items should be recycled, reused, or put in a landfill.

3. Effects of Environmental Change (3–5)

Frog in Camouflage - Earth Day ActivitiesThis lesson helps kids understand what could happen to plants and animals if they don’t adapt when their environment changes.

First, kids read The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest. Then, they watch a video about animal camouflage. Next, they play a predator-prey simulation game. Finally, they do a fun web activity to explore what would happen to living things if the air’s oxygen concentration changed.

4. Snapshot of U.S. Energy Use (3–12)

CO2 Emissions in Sky - Earth Day ActivitiesHow much energy do we consume simply by living our daily lives? This video, adapted from NOVA/FRONTLINE, helps students understand the amount of energy burned during daily activities. The video also explains how much CO2 those activities contribute to the atmosphere.

5. Dreaming in Green (4–8)

Four Girls Team Up to Reduce Carbon Footprint of School - Earth Day Activities

This video tells the story of four girls in Miami who joined forces to become the Green Team in order to reduce their school’s carbon footprint—and save money at the same time.

After watching this video, your students may be motivated to conduct their own energy audit at your school.

6. Team Marine (4–8)

Student Recycling Plastic Bags - Earth Day Activities

Students learn they have the power to influence change in their community after watching this video about Team Marine. This group of students convinced decision-makers to ban plastic bags in their town after they realized the negative impact the bags have on the ocean and sea life.

7. Ecosystem Explorer (5–8)

Vulture-Wolf-Shark Ecosystems - Earth Day ActivitiesIn these interactive videos and games, inspired by the PBS series EARTH A New Wild, students get to explore the ecosystems of three different animals: vultures, wolves, and sharks. They’ll watch a video introduction to learn about the relationship between animals and humans. Then they’ll play an interactive game to discover the science of ecology and learn about conservation of these three worlds.

8. Cornucopia: Environmental Simulation (6–10)

Farmland Irrigation - Earth Day ActivitiesIf you’re looking for Earth Day activities for students who like video games, check out this fast and fun simulation. It lets students manage a plot of farmland. The challenge is to make their farm as successful as possible. They’ll also need to keep an eye on their water meter and crop yields.

They’ll learn about water and land resource needs, identify how weather and climate affect water availability and food production, and investigate how agricultural technology affects water use.

9. The Energy Lab (6–12)

Wind Power Scene - Earth Day ActivitiesIn this interactive research challenge designed by NOVA, students design their own renewable energy systems for different cities across the United States. Students learn why some sources of energy are running low and how energy can be converted into useful forms.

Finally, students compete with one another to see whose designs produce the most power.

10. The First Earth Day (6–12)

Shadow of crowd holding a sign with a globe - Earth Day Activities

Students may think Earth Day began as a celebration. If they do, what they may not realize is that when it was first observed in 1970, it was a day of protest and demonstrations throughout the United States.

This video includes historical photos of the first Earth Day that show the beginning of the U.S. movement to effect environmental change.

11. Cars That Power the Grid (6–12)

Two Electric Cars Charging - Earth Day Activities

Electric cars are becoming more common, but do your students know that their cars may one day indirectly power things like refrigerators? In this STEAM video, students learn how engineers are researching ways to use electric vehicles to feed power back to the electric grid.

12. Recycling and Composting (K–5)

notebook and pencil - Earth Day ActivitiesIn this lesson, students learn about the value of renewable resources and expand their understanding of recycling and composting. The lesson includes videos and discussions about visiting a recycling plant and making recycled paper. After watching the second video, students will make their own recycled paper out of materials like cornstarch, water, aluminum foil, and newspaper.

What meaningful Earth Day activities do you do with your students?