Message in the
Two Earth Day Lessons
for Middle School Students
Marieke van Woerkom
question for teachers: The two classroom lessons below draw from a 9-minute
video clip available on the web. Is it easy or difficult for you to access the
web in your classroom? Do you find it useful to incorporate web-based media with
your students? Please let us know: email@example.com.
Message in the Waves
introduced to Earth Day
learn about the nesting colony of Midway
watch online the clip "Message in the Waves"
be introduced to the effect our waste has on wildlife in general and on albatrosses
minutes) What is Earth
Give students a quick overview of the history
of Earth Day by sharing the following: April 22 is Earth Day. It is a special
day to learn about our planet and the environment. In 1969 a Senator named Gaylord
Nelson was getting worried about our planet. He had noticed how dirty the planet
was getting and how many animals were dying. He knew that he couldn't solve these
problems by himself, so he decided to teach other people about what was happening
so that they too could help solve the planet's problems.
wrote many letters to his colleagues in Washington and published articles to convince
people around the country to have a special day on which everyone would learn
to care about the planet. On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was held and
people across the country learned about our planet and the environment. It was
so popular that very soon the idea of Earth Day spread around the world and now
every April 22, people around the world make a special effort to learn about the
planet and do things to help improve the environment.
students to talk in pairs about a time that they asked for help because they couldn't
do something by themselves. What was that like? What happened? Give them two minutes
to share and let them know when the time is about half way up so that they can
switch. Afterwards, ask a few volunteers to share what they said "popcorn
style" with the class.
Explain that April 22 is Earth Day, and that students
will join others around the world in learning about the planet and how to help
improve the environment.
in the Waves
Show students on a map where Hawaii is. Midway
is the best known of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. During World War II, Midway
served as an important naval air station and submarine base. These days it's a
different scene. Nearly two million birds of 19 species nest on Midway. Among
them isthe largest colony of Laysan albatrosses in the world, which is what today's
lesson will focus on.
the Message in the Waves clip with your class: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVjue0R5tHQ
the class into groups of four. Ask each group to spend a few minutes talking about
what struck them in the clip. What did they learn? What surprised them? Then ask
some volunteers to share what they said with the whole class.
ask students to think back to the things that Megan laid out on the beach after
walking around the nesting grounds. Ask each group to come up with a list. Back
in the big group, compile a combined list as a class, getting different volunteers
from the groups to share. When the list is completed ask students what they think
of this list. How many of these products do the kids use themselves? Have they
ever heard of the term "reduce, reuse, recycle"? What do they think
of items for the teacher:
Fishing gear, lines, floats
Roller balls from deodorant
students to talk in pairs about ways in which they think they might be able to
cut down on the things they use or prevent them from ending up in the ocean somehow.
Ask a few volunteers to share what they said with the class.
students that this is something they'll explore further in tomorrow's class.
Reduce Reuse Recycle
introduced to American consumption and wastefulness
define "life cycle"
look at the "life cycle" of a plastic bag and other consumer products
explore the notion of "reduce, reuse, recycle"
brainstorm ways in which they might improve the environment
agenda on chart paper or on the chalkboard
yesterday's list with the items from the beach
sheet of chart paper for each group to illustrate their item's life cycle
chart paper and markers to chart the "What can we do?" list
students to talk in pairs: Can they think of a time when they helped to clean
something up? How did it make them feel? Get a few volunteers to share what they
said with the class.
minutes) Check Agenda
Go over the day's
plan and ask if it seems okay.
minutes) Life Cycle Activity
the class into groups of four and ask each group to pick one item from yesterday's
that in today's lesson they'll be working on what is known as the "life cycle"
of the product they chose from the beach. What do the students think the life
cycle of a product might be? Listen carefully to the words "life" and
"cycle." What do they think these words mean when they are applied to
a consumer product?
cycle is the total process of creating, using and getting rid of consumer products.
bag can illustrate the entire life cycle process. We all use plastic bags, often
for no longer than an hour, sometimes even less. So what is the life cycle of
this plastic bag?
you talk your students through the life cycle described below, consider charting
the states to provide a visual (click here for a sample
chart). Explain that energy is used every step of the way, which further pollutes
the environment. You may want to illustrate this by drawing clouds, lines, etc.
at different points in the chart.
Petroleum and natural gas, which are the raw materials for plastic, must be extracted
from the earth.
(2) These raw materials are then transported to the factory,
they are turned into a resin that is heated, shaped and cooled, at which point
the plastic sheets are ready to be flattened, sealed, punched or printed on. The
plastic bag is born! From here it is
transported to the store, where
it is given to customers to
carry groceries or other items. After that, it might
be used again or
(7b) thrown in the trash. More likely though, bags end
up tossed on the street when people are done with them--getting caught in fences,
trees, even the throats of birds, fish and turtles. Few plastic bags end in landfills
and only 0.6 percent is recycled.
consider the 1,000 bags used per American family per year.
14 billion (14,000,000,000) bags are used in the US alone each year. When tied
together these bags could be wrapped around the world 26 thousand (26,000) times!
Think about it.
consumer products have life cycles like this. So let's turn to your item from
the beach. Think about the different life cycle stages your item may have gone
through, from extracting raw materials from the earth to being thrown away. Ask
each group to brainstorm together, and when they are ready, to illustrate the
life cycle of their item on chart paper.
minutes) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
end of the clip the sailor tells us: "Throwaway living may be profitable,
but the consequences are intolerable. It's certainly a problem for everyone and
it will require all facets of society to solve it. The ocean itself eventually
will spit this stuff out. But we have to stop putting it in. If we don't stop
putting it in, it will never be able to spit it all out and that's the situation
we're in right now."
their small groups, ask students to think about what ends up in the garbage at
school or at home, that they might be able to reduce, reuse or recycle. Think
about school lunches for instance (the sandwich bags, juice boxes, styrofoam trays,
etc.) as well as the classroom garbage (lots of paper). Also think about home:
What ends up in the garbage there?
about the waste of other things as well. Is there a way to save some of the water
we use, the heat or cooling of our classrooms or homes, the gas for the family
car, the power for machines like fridges, freezers, lamps, computers, phones,
MP3 players, and anything else your students come up with?
students to discuss this, first in their small groups. Then have students bring
their ideas to the large group. On chart paper titled "What can we do?"
make a list of their responses, using the three categories 1. Reduce, 2. Reuse,
and 3. Recycle.
this list a work in progress. You can check in with your students over the coming
weeks to see which of the actions on their list they are implementing at home
or at school. Consider adding actions to the list as your students become more
aware about how to better care for the environment.
In pairs ask students
to finish the following sentence:
earth is our home, we need to ____________________________________________
a few volunteers to share what they said with the class.
Activity: Low-Waste Lunch Day
your students to do research in the lunch room, investigating the waste produced
during lunch. Then, based on the research, help students figure out a plan of
action. Divide up the various tasks among your students. Consider informing the
rest of the school of the garbage problem by making posters, announcements, presentations,
etc. Have students share their ideas for how to reduce waste during school lunch.
did this activity work in your class? Please share your stories and other feedback
with us! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.