With spring around the corner, Earth Day is the ideal opportunity for your family to celebrate all that the Earth means to us. The first seeds for the first Earth Day were planted back in 1963 when John F. Kennedy was president of the United States. It took seven years for the idea to take hold, and on April 22, 1970 more than 20 million people celebrated the first official Earth Day. Today, 40 years later, Earth Day is a great time to renew our commitment to protecting the environment or for our younger readers it’s the perfect time to learn more about our planet and how to take care of it.

Of course Earth Day would not be possible without the earth itself, which has a much longer history. The Earth is estimated to be about 4.5 billion years old, and life has been evolving on its changing landscapes for nearly 3.5 billion of those. The diameter of the Earth is nearly 8,000 miles, and we are 93,020,000 miles from the sun, a perfect distance for supporting life in all its amazing forms. We share this planet with nearly 400,000 different species of plants and more than a million species of animals. Humans are but one of these species, and we number 6,805,700,000. About 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, but only 3 percent of this is fresh water. Only 11 percent of the Earth’s surface is used to grow food for people. Organic matter decomposes in about six months, whereas it will take plastic 500 years to breakdown.

There are simple things that we can do to help protect our environment, and many ways to celebrate the planet we call home. Both kids and adults can make a big difference by thinking about a few things: water, electricity, pollution and the 3 R’s.

Kids (and grown-ups too!)

Grown-ups

water

Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth.

Fix leaky faucets, and install efficient fixtures.

electricity

Turn off stuff—lights, computers, television—when you are done using them.

Conduct a home energy audit, and install compact florescent light bulbs.

pollution

Bike or walk to school and friend’s houses.

Carpool with friends and neighbors. Take advantage of public transportation.

3 R’s

Creatively reuse products to make art projects. Use both sides of the paper.

Buy products with less packaging. Use reusable shopping bags.

For starters, you can choose just a couple of things from this chart to do. Maybe you do some already or maybe your family can think of other things to add. You can make a checklist and see how many things you can make part of your daily life.

In making these small changes, you are already celebrating the Earth. But the most fun way to celebrate the Earth is by being outside enjoying the beauty of where we live, and getting to know a little bit more about the plants and animals and rocks and soil and water around you. Try some of these, for starters:

For Earth Day, take a hike! You might choose to explore an area new to you and your family, or you may revisit a favorite place. Be sure to bring some water, and wear comfortable, sturdy shoes. If you can do this without having to drive to your destination – even better! Often our own backyards are unfamiliar to us. Getting to know the names of a few plants living in our yard, or the woods behind our house, can be very exciting. When you know the plants in your backyard by name then every time you see one, wherever you are walking, you feel as if you are meeting an old friend!

Take a walk in your neighborhood or yard with a sketchbook and pencil. Make drawings of three plants or insects you encounter. Don’t worry if you don’t think of yourself as an artist, because the drawing is just for you, to help you identify the plant or animal when you get home and look it up in a field guide. It is a good idea to put words with your drawings to help remember as many details as possible. You can revisit the same plant every day for a week or two and notice more details or any changes that happen.

If you are inclined to stay really close to home, you might consider planting a tree in your yard or starting some seeds indoors. Planting is not only fun, it is good for you and the planet. Besides the personal benefits of physical activity and being outdoors, you help the planet by creating more shade and animal habitat while helping also to reduce erosion. Of course the added oxygen that the plant produces is a benefit to all. Before purchasing a tree, check with your local nursery to learn about what will thrive in your type of soil and surroundings. It’s also a good idea to find trees that are native to the area, so they are not invasive and provide ideal habitat for local animals.

If a tree is bigger than you are thinking, start some seedlings indoors which can be transplanted into your garden, yard or pots once they are a bigger and the weather and soil are warmer. No fancy materials are needed. With just an eggshell, a little soil and some seeds, you can grow your own planter. It’s the ultimate in eco-friendly craft ideas!

What you will need:

Clean eggshells with just the top broken off                                                                       Potting soil                                                                                                                    Seeds: grass, wheat, rye and radish all sprout quickly                                                                 Five to six inch strip of card stock                                                                                         Scissors                                                                                                                            Glue or tape

What to do:

Tape or glue the cardstock into a ring to hold the egg.

Use a small spoon to fill the egg almost to the top with potting soil.

Sprinkle the soil with seed.

Add a thin layer of potting soil on the top.

Carefully water so as not to overflow or soak it.

Keep in a sunny location.

Your seeds will begin to sprout in a day or two and your egghead will grow "hair" in about a week!

You can also use a cardboard egg carton to sprout any kind of seeds that you like. Some seeds that sprout quickly and grow easily are green beans and radishes.

You can then plant your eggshells and cardboard egg cartons directly into the soil once the earth is warm enough and your seedlings are sturdy enough. They will both decompose, and the eggshell will even add a bit of extra calcium to your soil. Then you can remember Earth Day all summer long.

Websites to visit for more ideas about Earth Day

Activities:  www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/earthday

Tips: www.epa.gov/earthday