This Wednesday, April 22nd is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Whether it’s your child’s first Earth Day or they’re an Earth Day expert, this is an excellent week to focus on nature and the importance of a healthy relationship with the Earth.
While this isn't the year for community park clean-ups or school garden pollinator plantings, there are many ways to make this Earth Day a valuable experience for your child. In fact, with so many opportunities for your child to learn about the Earth and its creatures from so many different perspectives and organizations, they just may find their own Earth Day connection this year.
Before you launch into Earth Day activities, it might be helpful to provide some background for your child. In order for them to understand why we celebrate Earth Day and what makes this day different from others, you can teach them about the history of Earth Day and how the day reminds us of the importance of using our voices to speak up for nature. You can learn more about the story of Earth Day here but the essence is that on April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans organized protests to demand environmental protections and a new way forward for our planet. That number of Americans represented 10% of the U.S. population at the time — which was such an incredible number that it got the attention of President Nixon. As a result, landmark clean air and water legislation, as well as the federal Environmental Protection Agency, grew out of it. Kids today just might be surprised to learn that there was plenty of youth activism on behalf of the planet before Greta.
For your family’s celebration of Earth Day, aim to focus on the ways your own children prefer to connect with nature. A connection with nature is one of the most vital ingredients for stewardship of the planet. Nature connection creates a sense of belonging to the wider natural world as part of a larger community of nature. In today’s times, this is crucial. To help conserve nature, we need to understand that we are a part of its larger community. Maybe your child’s nature connection is though animals or nature play or fascination with the ocean. We’ve rounded up a few cool ideas we’ve seen scheduled to (virtually) take place on Earth Day for you to choose from:
SPACE TECH EXPLORER
Anyone celebrating Earth Day should stop by NASA’s website to see what it has in store. This year NASA has collected activities, videos, special programs and other materials to help you observe “Earth Day at Home” with their Earth Day 50th Anniversary Toolkit. Your child can “head out” on a NASA Earth science webquest to learn how NASA helps study and protect the land, air, water, and ice. Or they can help NASA classify and map 3D images of real coral reefs with images from satellites made using special “fluid lens” cameras for a clear picture without the distortion of moving water. As players at all levels map the coral, they help the supercomputer at NASA’s Ames Research Center “learn” how to classify coral on its own. Together with the National Park Service, NASA has created three special Junior Ranger Space Tech Explorer activities for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Written for ages 5-12, the activities explore what NASA and the national parks have in common, and how space technology benefits life, parks and the planet. The space agency will also host a special Earth Day edition of "NASA Science Live" on Wednesday at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT). The webcast will feature agency chief Jim Bridenstine, who will talk about how NASA tech is helping scientists learn about Earth and its many interconnected systems. Learn more.
Celebrities may be prepping to be part of the lineup for Earth Day Live but there is likely to be no celebration of Earth Day that can match what the skies have in store. Earth Day just happens to correspond with the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower. Active from April 16 to April 25 this year, the Lyrid meteor shower is a long-running and occasionally incredible celestial event. Due to peak in the early hours of Wednesday, April 22, the Lyrids usually produce about 10 to 20 shooting stars per hour, though the shower has been known to sometimes produce hundreds for lucky onlookers. It should be possible to see some shooting stars produced by the Lyrid meteor shower just by stargazing outside if it’s a clear sky. Learn more.
The American Museum of Natural History will offer "Earthfest from Home,” a family-friendly, all-day online festival honoring our planet. One of the livestreamed events, a "watch party" at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT) hosted by AMNH planetary geologist Martha Gilmore, will compare our planet to its cosmic neighbors, putting Earth in a larger context and shifting our perspective. "Hop aboard a live flight to unveil the mysteries of Earth’s toxic twin, Venus, and the dynamic nature of our planetary neighbors," AMNH officials wrote in a statement. "What can Venus and Mars teach us about climate change and the unique conditions that support life on Earth?" This is one to watch! Learn more.
BIG CAT CHAMP
If your child is a big cat lover, they might want to tune in to a live chat with a snow leopard expert. On Wednesday, Dr. Koustubh Sharma will discuss how technology is to answer questions about snow leopard ecology, build programs to address threats across snow leopard range, including habitat loss, loss of prey, and climate change. Learn more.
Birding kids can find a full list of online webinars, lectures, and other events across the US. Though some of the events are geared for adults, many should be ideal for kids. The Greenwich Audubon Center is hosting a LIVE online Earth Day celebration as well as a virtual stroll along our Storybook Trail! There’s even a Meet the Animals Livestream that is sure to delight kids! Learn more.
NEARBY NATURE KID
We’re all staying close to home these days. Along those lines, the City Nature Challenge is a three-day global event (April 24-27) that encourages people to look for wildlife in their community and post information about their discoveries on the app iNaturalist.
In the past, the event has been a competition among cities to see who can find the most wild plants and animals. But this year there's no competitive element to the challenge. So many people are in lockdown or under stay-at-home orders, restricting them to only essential trips outside the home. They often are limited to observing the nature they can find in their own yards. Learn more.
During the week of April 20th, WWF is inviting anyone to create art pieces that show the importance of nature, the ways in which it inspires us, and what it personally means to them. Post photos of your artwork onto your own social media account and include the hashtag #ArtForEarth and tag @world_wildlife on Instagram and Twitter or @WorldWildlifeFund on Facebook. Throughout the week, WWF will share some of their favorite pieces to highlight on their social media accounts. Learn more.
The San Francisco Exploratorium is hosting a Virtual Earth Day Celebration from 1:00–2:30 p.m. (PDT) on Wednesday. Their online program explores topics from the history of Earth day to some of the big ideas behind the science of the Earth’s systems. Learn more.