Earth Day: Art, Science, and Poetry

Earth Day activities for upper elementary students

If you are anything like me, you probably spent the few days before Earth Day trying to find a quick and easy lesson (or set of lessons) you could do with your class that would be meaningful but not too time consuming.  I mean, with THE TEST only a week away, I wanted to acknowledge the day but still have some worthwhile rigor thrown in there.  So here is what we did to make sure that is exactly what happened.

We started the day watching the Earth Day BrainPop.  It was free on April 22, which was perfect for my needs.  It gives a little history and insight into how the day came to be.  Then we watched the BrainPop Jr video about reducing, reusing, and recycling.  (this one is also free to access without an account.)  That helped my kids to see ways that they personally could reduce their waste.  We made a list of all of the different things we heard and ways we could reduce, reuse, and recycle.  Next, I read the kids The Earth Book by Todd Parr (this is my affiliate link.)  Again, we added to our growing list of ideas for how we could save the Earth.  

List of ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle as generated by the third grade students

Once our list was created, I gave the kids a black line master of the Earth.  I made sure the one I found online was created with a thick, dark line.  They turned it over and used that as a guideline to create a concrete poem listing all of the ways that they personally could save the earth.  They wrote in green colored pencil on the outlines of the continents and blue colored pencil inside of the oceans.

Creating an Earth Day concrete poem listing ways that the upper elementary students could help to save the Earth.

Next, we dove into a little art and science mash-up.  The science lab aide at school was cleaning out her closets when she found some round filter paper that she donated to my class.  Using it for a little exploration of chromatography was the PERFECT way to use that paper!  (you could use coffee filters for this part) The kids used regular WATER-BASED markers (not Sharpies) and colored in a basic earth pattern on the paper.  I had them color as much as possible, but told them the coloring didn't have to be perfect.  It was ok if there was some white of the paper showing through.  Then they folded the paper in half three times, creating a pizza-like triangle wedge.  They then stuck the pointy end into a cup of water with about 1/2 inch of water inside.  

Instantly the water began to crawl up the filter paper, taking the marker with it.  The colors got darker and separated.  It was so neat to see some purples and yellows being pulled out of the blue and green markers!  The kids were in awe and LOVED it!  

After the waterline on the paper got to about halfway up, it was clear there was no more movement. We moved the filter paper to a flat surface, opened it up, and used a dropper to finish the process.  This made it look even cooler!  The color spread in so many unique ways!

Chromatography on Earth Day for upper elementary students

We left the paper to dry overnight, then came back the next day and glued the concrete poems right into the middle of the art.  

Fun science, art, and poetry project that makes for a good Earth Day bulletin board.

This was a fun and easy, yet worthwhile project that my kids truly did enjoy.  The end products are STUNNING in real life (the pictures do not do them justice) and now it makes for a great bulletin board display!

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