Earth Day for 5yr-olds

April 22, 2013

In honor of Earth Day this year, I volunteered to go into my daughter’s preschool to teach her class a bit about sustainability. It was a lofty goal to teach a concept that is usually hard to explain to adults. However, I merged what I gleaned from a rather exhaustive online search for preschool Earth Day lessons and activities with my personal sustainable beliefs into a unique lesson plan.

First, we read “The Earth Day” by Todd Parr. While I don’t necessarily agree that children would understand the abstract correlation that reducing energy use would save saving polar bears and snowmen, I do appreciate his effort. (However, I honestly fear these children’s parents will think I’ve poisoned them with left-wing climate change conspiracy!) Despite my qualms with Parr’s broad analogies, I like the general message that we do all of these little things to take care of the Earth so it will take care of us – this is something we can all get behind!

Next up was a Pledge derived from the book. I picked 3 simple things that every kid should know in order to help take care of the Earth in their very own homes.

“I take care of the Earth so it can take care of my family, friends, and me.”

  1. I will turn off lights to save energy.
  2. I will turn off the water when brushing my teeth to use less water.
  3. Recycle!

Then we played a game called, What can we recycle? I took a bag of “trash” (aka things from around the house that very well look like trash as well as things I fished out of the recycle bin and cleaned). One by one, I took items out and asked what it was, what it was made of, and if it could be recycled. If it could, it went into a paper bag (conveniently made with recycled paper). If it couldn’t, I asked if it could be used for anything else? There were string and clean popsicle sticks re-useable for crafts; a clean, yet old, partner-less sock for cleaning windows; and old books and stuffed animals that could be donated. Afterwards, the trash bag was empty, but the paper bag was full of recyclables and a re-useable grocery bag had items saved from the landfill for one or more uses. The teacher then told the class that she was bringing in a recycling bin to learn to sort their waste. Being as thorough as I usually am, I handed her a list of recyclable items from the township’s website. I let her know that she was fortunate to have a municipality that recycles sandwich bags and grocery bags since I have to bag them up and remember to bring them to the grocery store. I also let her know about Terracycle for the mountain of juice boxes the school must toss every week. When paper and aluminum are fused together, as in the case of juice boxes, recycling becomes rather difficult. However, some municipalities and programs are able to recycle these.

Finally, we had a mini recycle dance party. After sitting quietly for the lesson (mostly), I rewarded them with a little music. Jack Johnson’s “3 R’s” is a fun song that combines multiplication (“3 times 6 is 18 and the 18th letter of the alphabet is R”) and sustainability (“3 R’s we’re gonna talk about today: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle!”). If you are a nerd like me, you will be impressed. If not, there’s a fun little breakdown with musical solos for you. There are also some examples of reducing your waste (bring your bag to the market), re-using things (wearing older siblings’ old clothes), and recycling (learn it). All that aside, the girls had fun twirling and a few boys rocked some air guitar and drums.

Thanks for letting me get all of that off my chest – can’t really unload that to a bunch of 3- to 5-yr-olds. For a tree-hugging purist like myself, I struggle with how to explain conservation to my own kid, let alone a group of kids whose households differ in routines and beliefs. At the end of the day, though, it’s good to just help them better understand that we do these things because we care about each other and the Earth. I’m not quite sure they understood the lasting effects of saving energy or water, but the overall consensus seemed to be that they like polar bears, dislike the dark, and might take baths with less water. My goal was just to get the wheels turning and I’d say the mission was accomplished.

Found in Nature series by Barry Rosenthal is a collection of found objects washed ashore on beaches in NJ and NY. Beautifully curated yet a sad reality of carelessness for our Earth and each other.