This week I will teach my class how to help keep the earth healthy. Not surprised? Of course you aren’t ……Friday is Earth Day. It hit me last weekend… Earth Day is next week…..don’t forget to get out the Earth Day folder…..decide what to teach……think of something new….work Earth Day in the same week with the Talking Tree, class pictures, egg hunt, Grandparent’s Day and a 3 1/2 day week. Whew! How will I get it all done?
And then I remember….EarthKeeping 101 happens every day in my class! Did I make up the term “EarthKeeping”? In trying to come up with a catchy title, I thought I did, but there are many before me using the term. If you go to my favorite search engine “Dogpile” and type in “Earthkeeping” and you will find pages and pages of results.
My first grade definition of EarthKeeping is “housekeeping on a larger scale and taking care of where you live”. My favorite adult version is the one I found on “Timberland“. “Earthkeeping is a simple challenge and common commitment to be environmentally responsible. “Earth”—where we all live, plus “keeping”—our way of keeping it great. Earthkeeping is straightforward, practical, common sense. It means taking actions that enable you to be a good steward of the earth. Earthkeeping is the products you use, like those made with environmentally conscious materials or made by eco-conscious companies. Earthkeeping is planting trees, greening your community, recycling and other things that better the environment. Earthkeeping is taking a stand on issues that affect the environment, like climate change.”
So the challenge is to take the components of the adult definition and bring them back down to an elementary level to teach our students to be a “good steward of the earth”. Like everything else we do, we are setting the foundation for better understanding for the future.
Appreciation – If you aren’t taught to appreciate something, what would motivate you to want to take care of it? Appreciating what our planet has to offer in nature…….animals, natural resources, land forms, plants…..it’s the first step.
Respect – If you appreciate something, it is so much easier to respect it and then you want to protect it. Teaching respect is more than just saying “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir”. It’s learning to acknowledge the personal space of people, animals, and plants and not to harm them.
Reduce – Does every child need a copy of every worksheet? No! Rethink worksheets and start scanning some of them to use on interactive whiteboards. Reduce time at the water fountain with 5 second drinks. Explain to them WHY you are taking these steps. Before long they will be telling you how they reduced their usage of something.
Reuse – Reuse is one area where teachers are the pros! How many times have you said “don’t throw that away, I can use it at school?” (Curse the toilet paper industry for figuring out how to eliminate the paper tube! ) A couple of other ideas for reusing in the classroom…….the cure for pencils, crayons and erasers on the floor that find themselves being swept out at the end of the day is to provide a lost and found in the classroom…….reuse powdered laundry scoops for holding water for watercolor projects or planting seeds………teach your students to use the backs of worksheets to express their creative side while they are waiting for others to finish assignments.
Recycle – Teach what can and cannot be recycled in the classroom. Place bins at each table group so the children can get in the habit of recycling from their cut and paste activities. At the end of the day empty them in the school’s recycling container. Let your class see you recycle and recycle and recycle………………
Simple classroom EarthKeeping habits can start the process for a generation of environmentally conscious adults………and by the time they are adults, the Earth is really going to need them!