Earth Day lessons and activities

Every April 22, over a billion people in 190 countries take action for Earth Day. has announced that this year’s theme is Green Cities. As more people move to cities, the need for sustainable living is more important than ever.

Young girl holding globe |

Photo credit: Poike/iStock/360/Getty Images

Children learn about their environment by interacting with it. Outdoor, hands-on activities work best to educate children on the importance of preserving and protecting our earth. To help celebrate this year’s Earth Day theme, try the following activities.

Take action

This year’s call to action is to pick at least five actions to commit to on Earth Day and throughout the year. Use five environmental actions that can help your city, such as using less water and electricity, commuting without polluting, reuse, renew and recycle.

Children can easily choose five actions from the water, air, land, energy, waste and advocacy on this fun 5 for the Environment widget.

The greenhouse effect experiment

Use this experiment to teach children about the atmosphere in our cities by viewing the effects of a greenhouse.


  • 2 small thermometers
  • 1 jar or other see-through container
  • 1 clock or watch
  • 1 copy of the worksheet
  • Sunlamp or access to a sunny area to perform the experiment


  1. Place thermometers under the sunlamp for 3 minutes so the thermometers will be giving accurate readings.
  2. Record the temperature readings on both thermometers as well as the time.
  3. Place jar over 1 of the thermometers for 1 minute and record findings.
  4. Continue watching both thermometers and recording findings every minute for 10 minutes.


The air over the exposed thermometer is constantly changing, and as it gets warm it is replaced by cooler air. Because the air in the jar cannot circulate to the rest of the room, this air stays in the sunlight and gets warmer and warmer. A similar trapping of heat happens in the Earth’s atmosphere. Sunlight passes through the atmosphere and warms the Earth’s surface. The heat radiating from the surface is trapped by greenhouse gasses. This warming due to heat-trapping gasses is called the “greenhouse effect.” Both the atmosphere and the jar allow light to enter, but then trap that energy when it is converted to heat. They work differently, however, because the jar keeps in the heated air, while the greenhouse gasses absorb radiative heat.

Earth Day events

Earth Day events and activities will be held in most cities around the country. You can find a full list of local events on the Earth Day page here.

National Park Week kicks off April 19 at more than 400 parks. On opening weekend, Saturday and Sunday, April 19 and 20, every national park will give free admission.

Pottery Barn Kids will host an Earth Day Treasure Hunt, children will be encouraged to “Go Green” through hidden clues and facts around the store. Each child will be given plantable bookmark.

“We’re never going to have respectful and reverential relationships with the planet — and sensible policies about what we put in the air, the soil, the water — if very young children don’t begin learning about these things literally in their houses, backyards, streets and schools. We need to have human beings who are oriented that way from their earliest memories.”

— Elise Boulding

More on being Earth friendly

Easy changes to green your parenting
Life hacks for going green
Easy ways to create an eco-friendly environment at home