Earth Day began in the US in 1970 as a way of raising mass awareness of the issues facing our planet as a result of decades of pollution, deforestation, and other environmental destruction. Initially a day of protest, over the years, the focus of Earth Day has shifted towards education and each year, schools around the world take part in a variety of Earth Day activities and challenges to learn more about our planet.
But Earth Day isn’t just for school! There are lots of ways you can observe Earth Day with your kids at home and in your local area too! Down here in the southern hemisphere, Earth Day (April 22) falls right in the middle of autumn, which is perfect for photos! The worst of the scorching summer heat is over and the persistent chill of winter is still a few weeks away, so it’s the perfect time to get outdoors with your little ones to learn more about the world around us.
Click Love Grow Instructor and mum-of-six Emma Davis loves getting outdoors with her kids, here are some of her fave Earth Day activities…
This one is fun for both younger and older children as you can make it as easy or as challenging as you like! Simply make a list of natural objects that can be found in your local area, then head outdoors to see how many you can find!
Try not to disturb the environment around you when exploring. Rather than picking flowers or foraging for bugs, encourage them to look for interesting textures, pops of autumn colour, fallen leaves and twigs, pinecones.
For older children, it’s also a great opportunity to talk about the way our landscape changes with the seasons. Compare the crunchy fallen leaves underfoot with the brightly coloured ones in the trees, take notice of evergreen species that don’t lose their leaves, and make a wish on scattered dandelion seeds.
Once you’ve collected all of the items on your scavenger hunt list, photograph them or use them to create a nature collage.
Focus on the details – dirt under little fingernails, the texture of a leaf, footprints in the mud… these little details are all part of the story!
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I’m the first to admit that I definitely don’t have a green thumb – I struggle to keep even house plants alive! But the great thing about planting seeds in autumn is that those which are hardy enough to survive the winter chill are usually tough enough to survive even me!
So what should you plant in autumn? Herbs are a great option – they grow fast, so your little ones won’t have to wait long to see the results of their hard work. And they’ll love helping out in the kitchen adding handfuls of their very own homegrown herbs to family meals. Mint, basil and parsley all grow well when planted in autumn.
If herbs aren’t your thing, why not plant some spring blooms? Autumn is the perfect time for planting daffodils, jonquils and freesias, and while they don’t give quite the same instant gratification as herbs, they’re a lovely way to introduce older kids to the concept of timed planting, plus seeing those first few buds pop open in early spring is a great reward when winter is over.
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Look for the light – whether it’s dramatic backlight, or soft light in a little patch of covered shade, set up your planting activity in a spot with plenty of light to make balancing your settings easier.
Okay, so this is one of my all time fave activities to do with my kids regardless of the season, but it’s a great one to do on Earth Day because kites need wind to fly, and wind is a source of renewable energy, so it creates a good opportunity to talk about energy and the different ways in which we both generate, and use, energy.
Most of the energy we use in our day-to-day lives comes from non-renewable sources like coal and oil, which will eventually be used up, and which often make a bigger contribution to pollution than renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
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Talking points might include ways in which we use renewable energy in our everyday lives, and ways we can reduce our own energy consumption – in our house, remembering to turn off all the lights before we head out for the day is a big one!
If there’s not enough wind to fly a kite, pinwheels are another fun activity to try along similar lines.
You’ll need a fast shutter speed for this one! Check out our tips for getting sharper photos of kids in motion for more info.
We’re lucky enough to live right on the edge of a national park, which gives us easy access to lots of little tracks and places to explore, and my kids love disappearing into the bush for an hour or two, especially if we take snacks with us!
When packing snacks, think about sustainable packaging options. We love our stainless steel bento boxes for school lunches, they’re a wee bit heavy for a hiking backpack though so we tend to use reusable silicone ziplock bags for picnics.
Look for framing opportunities amongst the trees, leading lines in paths and creeks, and use composition techniques such as layering to add depth to your hiking images.
I’m a shameless light chaser, and sunset is my favourite time of day, so I love sharing that with my kids, and with daylight savings over and the days getting shorter, you don’t have to stay up past bedtime to see the sun go down.
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I have a photography app on my phone that tells me the exact time the sun will set on any given day, but you can also get the same information from Google or your phone’s weather app. I usually aim to get to my fave spot about 45 minutes before sunset to make the most of that glorious golden hour light, and then I like to stay for half an hour or so after sunset as that’s often when you get the best display of colour in the sky.
The light changes SO quickly at this time of day, so keep an eye on your settings and adjust them as needed to ensure your exposure stays on track.
What does sunset have to do with Earth Day, I hear you ask? Well, you can talk about how the way the earth revolves around the sun affects our seasons, and how the position of the sun in the sky changes week to week and month to month. Also how the days are shorter in winter and longer in summer (and not just because of manmade daylight savings!). And where the sun goes when it’s raining, why the moon sometimes comes out during the day.
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Or you can just sit and contemplate and enjoy spending some time together in the great outdoors!
These are some of the activities I’ll be doing with my kids this Earth Day, I’d love you to share how you observe Earth Day in your part of the world.
If you need to google the answers to your kid’s questions (hey, I did!!), check out these great online resources aimed at kids:
Emma Davis is a CLG Instructor, Advanced Grad, and an ex-pat Kiwi living in Sydney. She has a background in journalism and photography, and is mum to six gorgeous muses who indulge her love of hunting and capturing light.
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