Earth Day 2014

Earth Day is just the round the corner, a time to reflect on nature and not only appreciate what the planet has to offer but to take some extra time to protect it.

Credited with starting the modern environmental movement in 1970, Earth Day on April 22 marks the unofficial birth of the planet, where people of all ages begin recycling projects, plant trees, pick up trash and learn about current threats and issues regarding preservation.

Though an important holiday of adults too, children have a special place and role in education and environmental awareness as they pave the way for what the planet looks like tomorrow.

“Once they get in the habit of recycling or thinking in terms of conservation, then (those generations) will do it that way,” said Marilyn Ortt, who helps plan Marietta’s Earth Day celebration. “We just have to teach them to make it a habit, not something that has to be an effort.”

Paying attention to nature

While there are also crafts to make and songs to sing, many ways to get youth invested in Earth Day involve the most simple and natural of items, from clouds to leaves.

Parents and children can get a blanket, recline and watch the clouds as a precursor to talking about how to improve air quality, according to ideas from scholastic.com.

Or how about a walk through nature, stopping to photograph sticks, rocks and leaves? It may be a good way to get children to focus on the things that need to be preserved, and a reminder for later.

Also fun can be a game of “I Spy,” focusing on leaves, trees and birds.

Jesse Daubert, the watershed coordinator for Friends of the Lower Muskingum, said his group likes to focus on teaching children about water quality and what they can do to help.

“For kids, we try to teach them about the things that live in the stream-the bugs and the fish-because it’s easy and fun for them to be able to connect that with what is in the water,” he said.

Jocelyn Ruble, 9, from Marietta, said the earth deserves to be protected just like people do.

“I like to help pick up trash in my yard and around where I live,” Ruble said. “It’s the Earth’s birthday, so we should be helping it and making it clean.”

An active approach

Once youngsters understand the beauty of the earth and the importance of preservation, they may be chomping at the bit to do something to help.

“It’s important to help keep your neighborhood clean, and for kids that’s not that hard to do,” said Damon Francis, 9, of Marietta.

The First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta has its very own Green Sanctuary Initiative, which promotes the protection of the environment through educational programs, gardening and recycling.

“We always participate in Earth Day, and we invite kids to use recycled products to make into art, where they’re using their own creativity but it’s also educational,” said Kathryn Hawbaker, the minister of the church. “We’ve found that kids are even more insistent and excited about recycling than their parents.”

Hawbaker said when recycling and conservation can be incorporated in the family, it makes it even more effective.

“It doesn’t cost money, but it’s fun, and if you’re doing it with others, you’re more likely to be encouraged,” she said. “If you make kids understand that they have to take care of the planet, they really get it and want to help, and they will use that to remind their parents to do the same.”

Scholastic.com also suggests walking or biking with a child to school and having children make positive promises. They can fill a journal with resolutions for how their family can help the earth and decorate it with photographs, poems, and pictures.

Since warmer weather has arrived, families can also plant a seed, sprout, flower, or tree in a pot, garden, or backyard.

“Trees are good to plant because they give you air and shade,” Francis said. “And on Earth Day you can plant them, but you can plant them any time.”

Teachers also suggest for families and classrooms to have children collect as many recyclable items as possible and take them to the community recycling center, where they can learn about how to separate different materials while learning about the resource available to them.

“There are plenty of places to recycle, and it’s all about making a conscious decision to do it,” Ortt said.

Crafts and art

From the classroom to home, there is an endless amount of activities and crafts to do with children that can be fun while keeping them in the mindset of saving the planet.

Megan Thompson, a fourth grade teacher at Barlow-Vincent Elementary, said she plans to try and fit in some Earth Day activities despite all the testing that looms for elementary-aged students in May.

“I will have them write an acrostic poem that talks about earth and what they can do to help it, so they’re thinking about it more,” she said. “Then I want to try and get them out to pick up trash around the school and brighten things up.”

Earth-friendly crafts using everyday household items are also a good way, Scholastic says, to teach children that making new things does not always require a purchase.

Pine cone bird feeders, which simply require dipping pine cones into peanut butter and then in bird seed, can be hung on trees to not only feed and foster the bird population, but also fit into the earth’s natural environment.

“It’s so important that kids learn how to preserve the earth,” said Connie Grimes, one of the coordinators of the Earth Day event in Marietta. “They have to make it a better planet for everyone because they’re the ones that will be here.”

There are also songs and books devoted to Earth Day themes.

“The Lorax,” the popular Dr. Seuss book about being the voice for nature and the trees, is a literary Earth Day staple.

Or for the more musically inclined, the song “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” sung to the tune of the “Eensy Weensy Spider,” can get children in the mood for Earth Day:

“Reduce, reuse, recycle, words that we all know

We have to save the planet so we can live and grow

We might be only children, but we will try, you’ll see,

And we can save the planet, it starts with you and me!”