Earth Day Activities for Upper Elementary

earth day activities for upper elementary students

Earth Day is one of those holidays that I always get so excited to bring into the classroom! It is such an important topic to discuss and is highly engaging for students. Earth Day celebrates our planet and home and all the different ways that people everywhere can work together to keep our planet clean and safe.

Earth Day topics naturally lend themselves to being taught across all content areas, making learning about this holiday seamless.

Here are some of my favorite content-rich activities to do with students to celebrate Earth Day using meaningful and educational activities. 

Be sure to scoop up the FREE Earth Day writing activity at the bottom of this post.

Earth Day Read Alouds

What is a holiday without a few favorite read-aloud books? There are so many great books to share with students during the month of April and several that relate directly to Earth Day. Here are a few of my favorites and the activities that I do with each.

earth day activities upper elementary

Miss Rumphius written by Barbara Cooney

This book is perfect for any lesson on character analysis and theme. The main character is given the task to make the world a more beautiful place, which becomes her life mission and a task she passes on to her niece. Following a reading of this book, simply provide students with a blank piece of paper and ask them to create an illustration that shows how they will make the world a more beautiful place.

The Great Kapok Tree written by Lynne Cherry

This is one of my favorite books to read anytime during the year, especially during April. This book is about saving our precious rainforests and lends itself perfectly for students to write persuasive writing pieces. (more details on this activity below).

Wartville Wizard written by JP Madden

This is an oldie but a goodie! The Wartville Wizard has the power to stick garbage to the person who threw it away. An interesting tale with valuable lessons about the 3Rs. After reading this book, students read informational passages about the 3rs (reduce, reuse and recycle).

Will We Miss Them? written by A. Wright and Can We Save Them? written by D. Dobson

Both of these books carry the same message of helping save endangered animals from extinction. They make great read alouds before, during, and after my class complete their endangered animal research projects (more details on this activity below).

Michael Recycle written by Ellie Bethel

This book is the first in a series of Earth-friendly picture books focused on how children can make changes to help protect the planet and practice using the 3Rs. With colorful illustrations and rhyming verse, the kids love listening to these stories. Following a reading of this rhyming book, I have my students create their own poems to tell how they will help protect the planet.

Earth Day Science Reading and Group Presentations

There are so many topics that students can read about related to Earth Day. The history of Earth Day, How to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, and Water Pollution and Water Conservation to name a few. 
earth day activities upper elementary

I love to have students read Earth Day close reading passages to gather information or research different topics related to Earth Day that they find interesting Teacher Tip: Make sure each group has a different topic. Then I have students work in groups to present what they learned. After they read the materials, they discuss the key points and then create a presentation to teach the rest of the class what they learned. Students can create digital presentations or speeches to share with the class. By doing these presentations, you give students the opportunity to learn about many different topics related to Earth Day even though they just researched one. My kids love learning from each other with projects like this!

More topics your students will enjoy as you celebrate our planet:

Earth Day Songs and Videos

Get out your singing voice and get ready to belt the lyrics to a few of my favorite Earth Day songs!

  1. One Sweet World (Dave Matthews Band) Grab the lyrics HERE.
  2. 3Rs Song (Jack Johnson) Grab the lyrics HERE.
  3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (Numberrock)
  4. Big Yellow Taxi (Counting Crows version) Grab the lyrics HERE

While just singing these songs and discussing their lyrics is powerful, go a step further and have students illustrate the song. You can have students create one illustration to wrap up the song, or you can have groups of students work together to create an illustration for one line of the song. Then when all students are done, compile their illustrations to create a class book that illustrates the entire song.

Get the links to all of my favorite videos to use for Earth Day instruction HERE.

Endangered Animals Research

earth day activities upper elementaryThere is no project that I look more forward to each year than this Endangered Species Project. I have my students research the endangered animals that they choose, again making sure that students pick different animals. They use multiple sources, both internet and books, to gather important information for their research project. One great science website students use for this project is the WWF (World Wildlife Foundation). It includes the most up to date list of endangered species.

After students research and write their reports they share their work with their classmates in creative ways. They can make a book, video commercial, handout or give a speech. How ever they want to share the information is just fine with me. In fact, the more creative and unique the better!

Science Project: The Great Garbage Challenge

earth day activities upper elementaryThe kids just love this science project and are always so engaged.
The concept is simple: turn a piece of garbage into something that can be used again in a different way. When I do this activity, I have students work in groups of 2-3. It helps with the brainstorming and creativity needed for this project. I bring in a large bag of garbage (items that I think can be turned into something else) and display them on a table. While the students are in their groups, they discuss which piece of garbage they would like to use for the project. All members must agree. One group at a time is called to select a piece of "garbage" from the table. Students work together to makeover the item they selected with classroom supplies. Students share their finished creations with the class when they are done. Have the teacher next door come in and vote on the most creative for an extra challenge! The kids love it!

Persuasive Writing Topics

Earth Day began with the persuasive acts of one US Senator from Wisconsin named Gaylord Nelson who urged Congress to help educate people to care for our planet. What better way to honor this man than by writing persuasive essays about Earth Day topics.

Here are a few of my favorite Earth Day topics, perfect for persuasive writing:

earth day activities upper elementary

Dear Mother Earth Letter Writing

This sweet writing activity is one that you will want to do every year with your kids. To practice friendly letter writing skills, have students write letters to Mother Earth telling her how they are taking care of her. Encourage students to use specific examples from their lives and include an illustration. Bonus-this makes a great bulletin board display, too! Grab this activity for FREE at the bottom of this post.

I love watching my students' faces light up as they learn all about protecting our planet. One thing I always remind my students is that Earth Day should be celebrated every day, not just on April 22nd. With all of these lesson ideas to choose from, you can easily weave Earth Day throughout your lessons all year long. Happy Earth Day!

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earth day activities upper elementary

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earth day activities upper elementary

earth day activities upper elementary

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earth day activities for upper elementary students

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