April is Earth Month! This is a wonderful opportunity to educate our youngest generation about our planet, how it sustains us, and what we can do to help care for it. At Spanish Schoolhouse, we celebrate La Tierra (Earth) throughout the month, planting seeds of environmental awareness that will help create a more sustainable future for all of us earthlings!

Focus on Plants
Plant Week is a time we can teach not only about the parts of plants and their life cycles but how they contribute to a healthy environment by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Hands-on planting of seeds helps kids feel connected to what they are learning. This is an easy activity to carry over at home. Just step outside into your backyard, ask your child to show you the parts of a plant and have them tell you what their purposes are. You’ll be amazed at how much your little ones understand!

REDUCE, the first of the 3Rs can sometimes get overshadowed by that infamous third R (RECYCLE). But in terms of sustainability, “using less” beats “using more and then using energy to recycle it.” Here are a few ways we demonstrate this concept. During Earth Week, classes or even the whole school may choose to give up paper. We then have to use our creative brains to find ways to accomplish our normal “paper-based” activities. One class might use cut-up cereal boxes to make their class books. Other classes may collect used packaging materials to create art projects. Classes with bright windows may choose to leave the lights off all week. Teachers and students can brainstorm together on ways to use fewer things and/or REUSE materials instead of throwing them away!

Simple games can help kids learn about conserving water or electricity. For example, teachers can set a timer and ask preschoolers to quickly name all the daily activities that use water. With this list they can talk about the amount of water these common activities consume. Using a gallon milk jug as a visual reference, teachers can explain that some older toilets use nearly 5 gallons per flush, and taking a shower uses nearly 5 gallons of water per minute! Together, the class can discuss ways to reduce water at home (like turning off the faucet while brushing teeth) and how to avoid polluting water by not putting harsh chemicals down the drain etc.

Nothing is more thrilling for a child than watching the big recycling truck come and pick up a giant recycling dumpster, right? Except maybe meeting Rufus the Recycling Dog! There are numerous local resources each school community can use to help educate our budding-environmentalists. Check your city’s recycling webpage and you’re sure to find more than just the collection schedule.

The Environmental Protection Agency website has links to engaging resources for kids (in both English and Spanish). Check out the games and downloads in Recycle City and Planet Protector.

Small Kids, Big Rewards

When kids are given the challenge to explore and create with recycled or “found” materials, the process:

  • raises awareness of the quantity of trash we create and where it goes
  • encourages creative thinking, abstract thinking, and problem-solving
  • builds hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills
  • helps develop verbal expression as they explain new uses
  • gives them a sense of accomplishment when they innovate
  • gives them a sense of pride in helping take care of our planet.

Both at school and at home, even our youngest citizens can learn how to sort and recycle common items. This gives them real-life, hands-on lessons in math and science too, as they categorize, count, match, make patterns, and learn the concepts of parts vs whole. What a bonus!

Teaching recycling and conservation yields obvious rewards for the environment, and we love the fact that it also has such big rewards for children’s personal development. Earth Month at Spanish Schoolhouse lets us capitalize on this “win-win” experience in a fun way by planting the seed of greener thinking for a greener future!