Earth Day


Bring Earth Day alive with these great lessons from Population Education! Help your students understand the impact we as humans make on our environment and get them thinking about sustainability as our population continues to grow. Founded in 1968, Population Education has developed age-appropriate curricula to complement students’ science and social science instruction about human population trends and their impacts on natural resources, environmental quality and human well-being. Emphasizing hands-on learning and balanced discussion of different viewpoints, Population Education has curriculum materials that are classroom-tested, rigorously evaluated and frequently updated to be leaders in their content and approach. They are interdisciplinary, well-suited for a cooperative learning environment and classroom-ready. All of the materials are matched to current national and state academic standards and frameworks.

Broken down into four subjects (Social Studies, Science, Math and Language Arts), Population Education identifies the grade level for each lesson in each subject. Grade levels include K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. To give you an idea of some of the science lessons, I will list a few and tell a little about each from the different age level categories. Some of the lessons in the K-2 grade level category include Timber!, a role-playing simulation in which students discover what happens to a forest when the demand for wood is greater than the supply; Go Fish! where students share a bowl of goldfish crackers to simulate even and uneven consumption of limited resources; and Creatures in Motion where students participate in physical but noncompetitive games that illustrate the challenges that arise when working as a large group.

The 3-5 Grade Level lessons include Catching Pollution in which students “catch” pollution (particulate matter) on prepared cards to see the environmental and health-related consequences of our transportation habits and then visualize how much carbon is being put into the atmosphere per driver each day; Earth: The Apple of Our Eye uses an apple sliced into pieces to model the amount of agricultural land being used on Earth while students track data on a pie chart; and in Energy Imagery, Through guided imagery, students compare their energy use with that of a Native American in the past and then determine easy ways to conserve energy in their homes and schools.

Grades 6-8 will find lessons including Eco-Ethics in which students examine their own values by considering various environmental dilemmas and evaluating how different reactions impact the planet; Almighty Aquifers where students participate in a game that mimics the relationship between population growth and aquifer depletion; and Everything Counts where students act as store owners and conduct a mini-census to identify their potential market and then use different estimation strategies to see how construction of their store will impact a local population of threatened mice.

Lessons for Grades 9-12 include Code Blue: Endangered Oceans which has the instructor read a story about the history of the world’s oceans while students act as characters adding and removing items based on real-world events; Catch It If You Can where students mimic the spread of disease by exchanging liquids in test tubes in a hands-on simulation, and then graph and analyze data from the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone in 2014-2016 and watch and respond to short videos on the drivers of zoonoses and pandemics; and Bye, Bye, Birdie in which students determine a list of criteria to use when deciding the fate of endangered species, then conduct research on a specific species and create a presentation justifying its protection.

Earth Day is April 22, so it's only a few weeks away! The Population Education website is a valuable resource to use as you prepare for your Earth Day lesson plans. While you're there, be sure to download your FREE Earth Day Packets including featured lesson plans and resources chosen specifically for Earth Day!

Stephanie Miller

With over 25 years experience, Stephanie serves as a senior copywriter, social media director, and senior editor for Science Scene. Stephanie is always on the lookout for new educational and STEM-related opportunities and technology.