Earth Day is, in my opinion, one of the most important days of the year. Most of the year, we spend so wrapped up in our own needs and consumption that we forget about the needs of the planet around us or future generations. When it comes to children, it’s not easy to help them think outside of their own needs, so Earth week is a great week to teach kids their responsibility to the planet and the foliage and animals that share the planet with us, because they certainly aren’t going to think about it without our reminders and teachings!
The most fun things that you can do for earth week are going out and picking up trash and then doing something with said trash/recycling. We spent co-op day with some friends out at the playground where we picked up trash and did a nature hunt together, which was a blast. You’d think the kids would find it a miserable task, but even after they said they were done, they kept pointing out trash that needed to be picked up. It is so easy to pass by trash on a daily basis and do nothing about it or ignore it, but when you start paying attention to the junk on the side of the road, you realize how much people waste or throw into our forests, parks and waterways. My girls were shocked at how much trash they found in a field that looked pristine from far away.
Then, when we got home, I let them dig through our recycling bin to find boxes and other fun things that they could create things with. I think that they prefer getting the freedom to create on their own terms. So, we had some buildings and vehicles and rocket ships that were created, which was fun.
I also bought a compost kit and we threw a banana in one box and orange in the other. We have thoroughly enjoyed watching it compost in front of us and plan to place the healthy soil in our garden and start a new batch as soon as the fruit has completely decomposed. Watching Planet Earth and Our Planet was a fun afternoon and evening activity, and the kids really got into some of the stories and watching some of the animals.
I loved how hands-on the whole week was and I think that helped hit home the fact that we need to be better about being wasteful and make sure that we are taking care of the animals and plants on our planet. Hopefully we can raise the next generation to be action takers who help take care of our planet better than those before them!
I am very strategic about when I do a gardening unit because I want to spend the week that we are doing this unit actually gardening in our garden outside (yes, I am unapologetically using my own kids to do some manual labor in our yard). So, I felt like April was the best time of year to do this unit. It also corresponds so well with Earth Day (the week before) and Bug week (the week after), so it ends up being a pretty seamless flow of helping the planet and spending time outdoors at the perfect time of year.
This year, I saved up several kits from consignment stores to make our own indoor and outdoor children’s gardens, which was a huge help. My husband was gone for the week, so I was really happy I had thought ahead and had a fairy garden and glow in the dark garden that kept my kids busy for a while. They are also good ways to teach the girls responsibility, as I made it pretty clear these gardens were solely their responsibility. Yes, it’s a big gamble because they could easily kill it, but better this than an animal and they have to start somewhere!
Later in the week, during co-op we planted a garden outside with organic veggies and herbs that I loaded up on at Lowe’s (thank you, military discount!). Getting our hands in the dirt was really fun, and my girls, who are usually terrified of bugs, pushed past their fears to help me.
We did loads of crafts this week, but the most fun stuff we did this week was play with an over-the-chair felt garden I found at Target and out Green Toys Build a Bouquet. We pulled out our bugs a little bit early and pretended we were planting gardens and even that bugs were pollinating our garden to help them grow. All of this play probably seems silly and a little young for my girls, but I think getting hands on over and over again is the best way for something to resonate in their young brains. Hugely popular with my 3 year old and being so hands on this week meant that she was able to be just as invested in school as Aria.
Though weeks like gardening and bugs may at first appear like throwaways, I find them to be successful in getting my kids outside in nature, which helps their mental and physical well being. It also gets them to be more hands-on and it is great when you can find ways to teach kids responsibility. Plus, if you are like me and making learning fun is important to you, units like this are awesome at giving kids a break from the really structured, heavy materials of, say, continent units, and letting them get back to the basics. Never underestimate the power of kinesthetic learning!
Jessica and Ana
Our Homeschooling Mission Statement: We will strive to be patient, godly examples to our children, integrating biblical principles and morality into every subject. Learning should be fun. We will foster an attitude of lifelong curiosity and play while providing the best possible education we can through books, art, technology, food, tactile activities, and cultural experiences. Learning will not be dictated by hours on a clock but will be a way of life for our families.