Just before my eleventh birthday, I was given the Christmas Gift to Top All Christmas Gifts:  A Schwinn Continental II ten-speed bicycle.  I was so excited!  Now I could ditch my one-speed with a banana seat and not be riding something so childish.  My dad told me, “Take care of it, that’s the last bike you’re going to get.”  I knew he wasn’t joking, and I took really good care of that bike.  After all, it was very important to me!  My bicycle meant freedom to go where I wanted (within reason) without parents having to drive me everywhere.  I kept that bike all through college, selling it just before my first daughter was born.

We’ve only been given one planet on which to live; it’s the last one we’re going to get.  It just makes sense, then, to take good care of it.  The earth is very important to us!  It provides us everything we need to live, and logically we should want to do what we can to ensure it remains in good shape for future generations.

You may be wondering why an energy educator is writing about being environmentally conscientious.  At NEED, we’re all about balance, presenting energy-related subjects in an unbiased way, and equipping students to think for themselves and make informed decisions.  Energy efficiency and usage naturally lead to a discussion about the environmental effects of the energy choices we make, and at NEED, we have plenty of activities and curriculum units that can be used in classrooms, afterschool groups, and scouting troops to teach young people about the earth’s resources and using them wisely.

April 22 is Earth Day!  Celebrate!  Kids love to engage in activities that promote responsibility in the environment and NEED is a great place to look for resources you can use, whether it’s for a single day or an entire month.  Younger students will enjoy activities from Building Buddies or All About Trash as they learn to conserve energy and reduce the amount of trash being thrown into landfills. If your time is limited, try America’s Most Wanted Energy Wasters from Energy Games and Icebreakers.

Older students can be engaged through Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage or either of our climate change curriculum guides, Exploring Climate Change or Understanding Climate Change.  All three of these discuss the effects of using fossil fuels to meet our energy needs, and steps that can be taken to reduce the impact our energy use has on global climate change.  The Wedge Challenge from Exploring Climate Change shows students that many options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions exist, and leads them through the decision-making process.

If you’re looking for activities that can be completed in a short amount of time, try the Climate Web from Exploring Climate Change, or This Week in Energy Conservation from Energy Games and Icebreakers.

Earth Day is situated within National Parks Week, April 20-26.  Since 1872, when President Grant set aside 2.2 million acres that became the world’s first National Park – Yellowstone National Park – Americans have placed a high value on protecting the public lands that comprise the nearly 400 locations under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service (www.nps.gov).  Federal land is rich with natural resources, including energy sources, and utilizing those resources has been a source of great discussion and controversy.

Our curriculum guide, Energy on Public Lands, can help you lead your students through a discussion of this topic.  Packed with text, graphic organizers, and research activities, this unit will guide students through learning about public lands, management of the land, and utilization of its resources.  The culminating activity is an exercise in developing a public use plan for a location near their school or home.  Furthermore, teachers needing to meet English and Language Arts standards related to reading informational text, evaluation, analysis, and supporting a position with facts from the Common Core State Standards will find this unit helpful.  If you’re looking for an activity that can be done on one day of National Parks Week, try Conservation for Our Nation from Energy Games and Icebreakers.

Lastly, there is no better time than Earth Day to get a School Energy Management Team established at school.  Use the last few weeks of this school year to get your team started, measure current usage, and set goals for the next school.  Then in the fall, your kids can jump right into monitoring energy usage and helping save energy, and money, within their school.  Students who are involved in sharing responsibility for their building will begin to care about it more and the entire community will benefit.  Furthermore, documenting the students’ activities and progress will give you all that is needed for a Youth Awards project.  If you have questions about starting a team, send an e-mail to info@need.org and we’ll get you pointed in the right direction!

*Caryn Turrel’s text, Emily Hawbaker’s creative title!