For 50 years, Earth Day has celebrated our planet and raised awareness about threats to the environment. Since April 22, 1970, this day has highlighted the importance of the natural world and our role in protecting it. Each year, it reminds us to reflect, preserve and act on behalf of our only home.
The Historical Lens
The first Earth Day was a result of the growing environmental movement that took place during the 1960s and ‘70s. According to Earth Day Network, the global organizer for Earth Day, the public consciousness surrounding the state of our planet was on the rise due to large-scale pollution and the publication of literature like Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.”
U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson was inspired to create a national day recognizing environmental issues after he witnessed the consequences of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, in 1969. Nelson understood the power of student activism and announced that his idea for a national “teach-in” on the environment would take place in April — a time between many students’ spring breaks and final exams. What followed was the mobilization of an estimated 20 million Americans publicly demonstrating for a more sustainable environment.
The immediate gravity of the demonstrations could not be ignored. The initial Earth Day in 1970 led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that same year, as well as the subsequent passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. Earth Day celebrations have taken place each year since its inaugural event.
Earth Day at Home
Due to concerns over COVID-19, Earth Day Network announced that it will shift to “global digital mobilizations” for this year’s 50th anniversary.
Despite many public closures, there are still ways to celebrate Earth Day this year. Activities from the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) provide fun and accessible learning experiences for kids to participate in.
- Ocean Clean-Up Device: This STEM activity encourages thinking creatively about how to remove pollution from the ocean.
- Making a Rainbow: Explore the possibilities of light as it passes from one medium through another.
- In the Clear: Children are challenged to design modes of transportation in order to navigate extreme weather situations.
- Drops of Life: Inspired by Collegiate Inventors Competition® (CIC) Finalists, this activity teaches the importance of protecting water resources and the role of sustainable, clean solutions to water access.
- Coffee Compost: This lesson is an example of how families can reduce landfill waste and find creative uses for materials that many dispose of daily.
In addition to these activities, children can be inspired by one of the most popular practices at Camp Invention®. Upcycling is the act of recycling an object to create an item of greater value. There are countless ways to upcycle materials around the house and extend the use of objects that might otherwise go to waste.
Interested in learning more about how to stay active this Earth Day? Visit our blog for more inspiring stories and earth-friendly STEM activities!