Inspiring Students on Earth Day 

4 min read

|By Elizabeth Mohn|

The best teaching inspires young people to think critically and become active in their communities. Celebrations like Earth Day give educators unique opportunities to encourage students to care about contemporary issues through education and exploration.

Using Earth Day as an opportunity to teach students about environmentalism and environmental activists aligns with the holiday’s original goals. The first Earth Day, celebrated in 1970, was the work of U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. Nelson was inspired by the work of other environmental activists and the civil rights movement. He proposed holding a nationwide teach-in on April 22 to help more people understand the threats posed by environmental degradation. At the time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wasn’t yet part of the U.S. government, and the government hadn’t yet passed the Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act. Environmental activists wanted the government to take action to help protect the quality of our air, water, and land. Nelson believed that spreading awareness about the environment would encourage more people to take action to protect it. Earth Day has now been celebrated for more than 50 years. Classroom teachers and school librarians can use Gale In Context: High School’s new and updated resources to inform and inspire their students on Earth Day.

Educators can spark students’ interest in environmentalism and the environmental movement with the updated Environmentalism portal. The portal will help students learn how and why the movement started and the tactics it continues to use—which can help them better understand the reason for Earth Day celebrations. Students can also use the portal’s resources to learn more about environmentalism. For example, students can read an excerpt of the 1910 book The Fight for Conservation by early American environmentalist Gifford Pinchot to understand the movement’s origins. If your students are more interested in the modern environmental movement, encourage them to read biographies of contemporary environmental activists, such as LaDonna Brave Bull and Jamie Margolin.

The updated Global Warming and Climate Change portal is an excellent resource for students who want to learn about significant factors fueling the modern environmental movement. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues in the environmental movement, and the portal will help students understand the effects of climate change and the efforts people are making to combat it. Students can access the portal’s videos to see how their actions, such as choosing what to eat, can influence climate change. They can also use the portal’s website links to access the EPA’s climate change research website or to learn more about climate change from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Educators can show students that it is possible for them to make a difference in their world by introducing them to young environmental activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who contribute to the environmental movement on Earth Day and every day. Thunberg is a Swedish environmental activist who has become synonymous with youth environmental activism around the world. In 2018, when Thunberg was 15 years old, she wanted to convince the Swedish government to enact more restrictions to help curb climate change. Since she was too young to vote, Thunberg began her own protest. Her activism inspired thousands of young people to conduct similar protests. The new Greta Thunberg portal tells about Thunberg’s life and activism. Featured content articles linked to the portal will help students understand Thunberg’s background, and audio clips shed light on Thunberg and other young activists’ impact on the environmental movement. In one audio clip, students can hear about two young activists who were inspired to act because of Thunberg.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Mohn is a writer and an educational content developer. When she’s not reading or writing, Elizabeth is usually spending time with her family, listening to podcasts, or working in her garden.

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