"Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world."
Earth Day (April 22) is an annual reminder to go outdoors with our children and celebrate the beauty and bounty of the Earth. The first Earth Day was held in the United States in 1970 when concern about the environment and interest in ecology was increasing. A number of rivers and lakes were dying, there was smog over many cities, and people were breathing in fumes from leaded gas at our gas pumps. The success of the first Earth Days helped to usher in a new era of care for the Earth, including legislation protecting air quality, drinking water, wildlife, forests, and more. Today there are thousands of Earth Day celebrations in dozens of countries around the world.
Your children might enjoy joining in a local Earth Day activity such as planting trees, or helping to clean up a creek. Working together with other families can be a wonderful way for everyone to experience being an important part of the community. Even young children can make a difference; little steps can lead to big changes.
When appreciation and care for Earth are instilled in children early on, these attitudes become everyday habits. For example, did you know that turning off the tap when brushing your teeth saves 18 glasses of water! You could help your children fill 18 glasses of water to see just how much they could conserve each time they brush their teeth (then use the water for the garden, of course)!
We are raising the next generation; our children will inherit Earth and be its stewards. Discuss with your children the basics of Renew, Reuse, and Recycle. How do we do those things in our family? Even the youngest child can put items in the recycling bin and help walk it out to the curbside on pick-up days.
"A person who is growing a garden... is improving a piece of the world." —Wendell Berry
There are so many fun and interesting activities to do with your children to appreciate nature and to help protect Earth and its resources. Your family can:
Older children might enjoy:
Once children learn about ways to help Earth, they may well remind us when we forget. One parent laughed as he told me, "Ever since the school's Earth Day celebration, I can't get away with throwing the tiniest scrap of paper in the garbage. My child insists that I "put that in the recycle!'"
Maria Montessori understood the importance of nurturing children's connections with the beauty and wonder of the natural world. She wrote, "There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all of the life to be found around them in a real forest." (From From Childhood to Adolescence)
This Earth Day, go outdoors and enjoy nature with your children. Listen to bird song, watch squirrels chase each other, feel the sun on your face, smell the flowers or wild fennel growing by the creek. As Thich Nhat Hanh put it, "Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet." (From Peace Is Every Step)
—by Irene Baker, MEd, Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services. She holds both primary (ages 3-6) and elementary (ages 6-12) Montessori certifications and has taught at all three levels. For over 15 years, she has served as a Montessori teacher-trainer for both primary and elementary levels and has presented workshops for teachers at schools and AMS national conferences. Her work with both students and teachers is infused with the knowledge she has gained from her passions: history, social justice, non-violent (compassionate) communication, nature, meditation, music, and poetry.
—Originally Published 2017