Exciting Hands on Unit Study for Earth Day

Learning to take care of our Earth is an important lesson for everyone, but especially kids.  Our kids are our future and will be responsible for our Earth.  Teaching them how to care for the Earth is just one part of the solution.  Teaching them why we should take care of the Earth is just as important.  We ‘celebrate’ Earth Day every year as a means to appreciate the Earth we’ve got and also as a lesson on how to care for our Earth.

My kids tend to learn best with Unit Studies.  So of course we had to put together something fun!

(We received this product for this review.  All of the opinions in this post and mine (and my kids) ? )
We are big big fans of hands on unit studies that use living books.  What are living books?  Essentially they are books that bring the information to life.  Living books are great for kids as they provide useful information with an interesting story.

Frog Belly Rat Bone and a Seed Study

Frog Belly Rat Bone is about a boy who lives in Cementtown (which, as you may guess, is mainly just cement).  He finds a box of seeds and decides to plant them to see what magic follows.

We decided to delve more into seeds to go along with this book.  Seeds are where the magic of nature begins.  Using playdough, we made a large model of a generic seed.  The brown is the seed coat, the green is the embryo, and the yellow is the food for the embryo.  There are more parts to a seed, but we kept it simple for this exercise.

We discussed the functions of each part, how some keep the food safe and others provide protection for the embryo.

For more seed activities:
Work on some Math with Seeds
Dissect a Bean to see the parts for yourself
Observe How a Seed Sprouts and Notebook It

Bag in the Wind and Learning to Reuse

Bag in the Wind is a story about a plastic bag.  I have to say, it takes an incredible author to make you care emotionally about a plastic bag.  The bag starts in a landfill when the wind blows it away.  Throughout the story the bag travels all over and ends up being used for many purposes – a rain hat, a bag, and a wind blocker.

Plastic bags are becoming a huge problem for our world and, in my opinion, there are two solutions that we can do.  First, we can use reusable bags.  Second, we can reuse plastic bags.  I think both are viable options (especially because I can never remember my reusable bags).

We started by making a bag of our own to use at stores.  We have a few bags already but I figure the boys would be more excited about using their own bags.  Then we decided to try to make Plarn.  We haven’t decided what to use the Plarn for, but every time we find a plastic bag we are going to add to our roll!

Tying it together in a low row!  One bag made a surprisingly long amount of Plarn.

There are a plethora of ideas on how to reuse plastic bags.  Here are 3 ideas that I found interesting:

Make Plarn (plastic yarn) and use it to knit plastic mats.
Make a jump rope
Turn them into a reuseable bag.

Where’s the Elephant and a Tree Study

Where’s the Elephant is a simple book with a grand meaning.  It starts as a hide and seek book – you’re looking for an elephant, a parrot, and a snake.  At first, it’s rather challenging. But as you move through the book, the trees start disappearing and buildings start appearing.  By the end of the book, there is no place for the elephant, parrot, or snake to hide, just a large city where their home used to be.

We decided to do a small tree study on this.  I wanted to highlight the importance of trees to everyone on earth.  They knew trees provide oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, but I explained that trees do so much more.  Trees provide homes for many many animals and plants (yes, plants!).  Trees help cool the earth which also conserves energy and water.  Tree roots in the ground help clean the water and prevent erosion.  And that’s really not even all.

To add in some science and math, we made some tree rings.  Earlier this year we were lucky enough to visit a tree ring lab here in Tucson where they study tree rings from all around the world.  Tree rings are one of our most accurate methods of dating in existence and can tell us the history of an area.  Tree ring dating is also called dendrochronology (there’s your big word for the day!)

For instance, tree rings can indicate a drought or a year of heavy rainfall.  Tree rings can show when there were large fires or a lot of sun.  By studying a lot of trees in one area, scientists can give a very accurate history of that area.

These tree rings are more art than science.  First, start with a small circle and continue drawing circles around the outside.  They don’t have to be exact circles (tree rings don’t have exact circles!).  Feel free to make little indents at random.

Next, take two colors, a dark one and a light one.  They don’t have to be shades of brown.  Feel free to do light purple and dark purple.  This is art, after all.  Start with the light color on the inside and the dark after that.  Continue switching between the two colors.

Why aree tree rings light and then dark?  Together the light and dark make up a full year.  In spring and summer, trees start adding new layers and they grow rapidly.  These cells re further apart and appear lighter in color.  During winter, the cells grow slower and appear darker.  On a real tree ring, you’d notice that the lighter rings are probably a lot bigger than the darker ones.  But it’s because they are light and dark that we can actually see the tree rings.

For more tree study ideas:
Do an Experiment on which trees provide the most oxygen.
Label a tree and learn about tree anatomy
Be a dendrochorologist for a day

How the World Works and the Water System

How the World Works is a nonfiction book which describes different aspects of the world.  It goes into the water cycle, weather, carbon, plants, the food chain, and more.  The kids love it because it had pop ups, parts that spin, flaps, etc.  I love it because it explains, in great detail, how the world works.

For more activities on how the world works:

Do an evaporation experiment
Explore Earth’s Tilt (and why we have seasons)
Play the Food Chain Game

John Muir, Gaia Warriors, and Climate Change/Why Nature is Important


John Muir, also known as America’s first environmentalist, was a man who was passionate about nature.  I’m not sure passionate even covers it.  He spent decades walking through the U.S. and learning all of it’s natural secrets.  Then he dedicated his life to fighting for environmental rights.  He was a key figure in starting the national parks system that protects some of our greatest natural resources.

Gaia Warriors is a great book chock full of information on climate change, the evidence behind climate change, and (most importantly) what we can do to not make it worse.

I decided we should do an experiment that shows how valuable nature can be using water, soil, and rocks.  Soil and rocks naturally filter water to a certain extent, although plants work even better.  I would like to redo this experiment using a plant with the toil and rocks.

We used two clear containers with paper towel covering the top.  In one, we filled it with soil and rocks.  The other just the paper towel.

Then we mixed sand and dirt in this water bottle and mixed it all together.

Next, we poured some water over both of them.

The soil and rocks filtered out a lot more of the crud than the one without soil and rocks.  We need nature for many different reasons and this was a pretty good illustration of that fact.

For more activities on climate change and Nature:

Watch this video on climate change by a kid.
Work on this Changes in our Ecosystem Foldable
Review these tips for what you can do to help the climate.

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