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Activity for May:

Every Day is Earth Day!

In 1970, US Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed to hold a national, environmental “teach-in” on April 22 to honor the Earth. In the past 50 years, it has become an international event. 

Many communities hold Earth Week activities, too. But we can honor and care for the Earth every day of the year!

Even though it is now the month of May, these activities can help you honor and care for our planet! After all, we live here--every day is Earth Day.

Activity One: Plant a Seed

Let’s see how simple it is to plant a seed and grow a plant in your yard!

Benefits of flowers:

  • Plants add color to your yard and are important for pollinators (like bees and butterflies). 
  • They attract bees! The bees use the nectar as food and as an energy source to get to-and-from their home. They use the pollen that they pick up from flowers to feed larva (baby bees).
  • They also attract other beneficial insects such as ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and hover flies. These insects won’t hurt you and they do protect your plants from aphids and other harmful pests.
  • Some plants can naturally repel mosquitoes, pests, and other insects. Marigolds, for example, are commonly planted in gardens; their pungent odor (caused by volatile oil) repels mosquitoes.
  • They feed other animals! Sunflowers and Purple Coneflowers will produce the seeds that birds love, later in the fall. 

You can find small planting kits at stores like Home Depot or Wal-Mart, or purchase a packet of seeds, some topsoil, and a pot for planting. You can also recycle a yogurt container or milk jug, and use it as a pot. (Putting holes in the bottom will help the soil drain.)

There are a lot of plants to choose from: some seeds are easy to grow and some will add color to your backyard. Good choices for flower seeds are Marigolds, Zinnias, Sunflowers, Brown-eyed Susan, Gaillardia (Blanket Flower), Purple Coneflower, or any type of Aster. You can also choose a vegetable seed in order to grow something to eat later in the summer. 

Once you have your seeds, let’s get them in the dirt!

  1. Place soil in a container, stop about 1 inch from the top.
  2. Make a hole in the soil, up to your first knuckle. (You will have room for 2 to 4 holes, depending on the diameter of your pot.) 
  3. Place a seed in each hole and cover it lightly with soil. 
  4. Water the seeds and put them in a warm, lighted place. 
  5. When the top of the soil becomes dry, water them again.
In about a week, you should see the plant begin to emerge. Put the pot in full sun and make sure to keep watering it.

When your plants are 4-5 inches tall, you can plant them outside.

  1. Dig a hole in the soil. 
  2. Carefully remove the plants and place each in a separate hole, making sure to fully cover the roots. 
  3. Water them when you first plant them and keep them watered if it doesn’t rain. 

The plants may not produce flowers until later in the summer, but you can watch and wait!

Activity Two: Tackle the Trash!

Trash--it can be stinky and ugly! And who wants it in their yard or look at it on their road? Luckily, it’s easy to tackle trash and make your community shine! Many states and communities have special programs to tackle trash for Earth Day, but why wait for one day in the year? Every Day Is Earth Day! And you can help keep the Earth litter-free!

You will need:

  • Good gloves
  • A trash bag 
  • Long trash tongs (if you have them)
  • A reflective vest (if you are going to be near a street or a road)
  • Adult supervision 
Choose a place where you can pick up trash--it might be a nearby park, your neighborhood, your school, or a shopping center. (Just watch out for cars and make sure an adult knows what you are doing or goes with you, as you tackle the trash.)

You can even challenge your friends to a Trash Tackling Contest to see who can collect the most trash!

Once you have cleaned up as much trash as you have time for, or your trash collection bag is full, be sure to dispose of it the right way. Maybe you can put it out for garbage collection or take it to your dump/landfill.

It's always good to separate recyclable items from real trash. Your community may recycle items like glass, aluminum, plastics, cardboard, and tin cans. You can check with your local waste collection provider for what can be recycled.

Tackle the Trash, Part Two!

What did you pick up when you Tackled the Trash?

It can be both fun and informative to see exactly what is littering your community.

Once you have collected trash and litter, go through it and separate the items.

You can record the number of pieces of the different types of trash you collected on this chart.

Activity 3: Natural Chemistry

(Adult Supervision Recommended)

Usually, when we think of the word chemistry, we think of artificial settings like laboratories and science experiments. Chemistry, however, is a process that happens all around us--and even within us. Examples can be found in our home: cooking involves many chemical reactions. Or outdoors: venomous animals use specific chemicals that interact with their prey.

Chemistry can come in many forms. One way we use chemistry is to determine the acidity level of chemicals is the power of hydrogen, otherwise known as pH. Using pH, we can determine if something is acidic (like lemons) or basic (like milk).

We are going to do an experiment using a plant we can find in our backyard to determine pH of various liquids.

Look around your yard or nearby park for these flowers (common blue violets) and collect a full cup:

You will need:

  • 3 clear containers
  • Heat (something to boil water)
  • 1 cup of Common Blue Violet flowers
  • 1 cup of water
  • A strainer 
  • An acidic liquid (like white vinegar)
  • A basic liquid (like water with baking soda in it)
  • Other liquids are optional (like lemonade)

Boil a cup of water, add the flowers, and let them steep (soak) until the liquid cools. This can even be overnight. The liquid should be a dark blue color.

Then, use a strainer to strain out the liquid into a clear container. Put some of the liquid (not all of it!) into the other two containers.

Add an acid (such as white vinegar) to one container. Watch as the liquids mix. What color is it now? Did the color turn pink, green, or stay blue?

Add a base (such as baking soda, dissolved in water) to the other container. Did the color change the same way as before? What color did it turn?

You can use the scientific method to test other liquids! Make sure your test containers have been fully rinsed out, then put some new violet water into them. Try adding other kitchen liquids (clear liquids will work best!).

Make a hypothesis (a guess) of whether it will be acidic (and turn pink) or basic (and turn green). Record your hypotheses and see if you were correct.

Activity Four: Go Exploring!

The best way to celebrate Earth Day, every day, is to get out and investigate!

There might be a US Fish and Wildlife Refuge near you, that you can explore. In West Virginia, you can visit Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge near Davis, WV (or Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge near Parkersburg, WV). There are many other refuges close to the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

If you live in another state, you can find a refuge near you.

And of course, there are also state and national parks, local parks, and even your own backyard! It doesn’t really matter where you go--just get outside and enjoy nature!

Parents and teachers can download the PDF version of our activities here!

In case you didn't get a chance to view these last month, check out these other cool Earth Day Activities:

The U.S. Forest Service

The U.S. Forest Service hosts lots of activities. Check out some of our favorite ones:

Activity One: Grow a Surprise Garden

Are you curious as to what plants you can grow after going on a muddy hike? Follow the directions on this page to learn how to make a surprise garden. 

Activity 2: Create a Wildflower Bookmark

Here’s a fun guide on how to make a new bookmark using dried flowers.

Growing Healthy Kids

Growing Healthy Kids is a group dedicated to showing us how wonderful it is outside and how to grow tasty foods!

They have lots of activities on their page. If you want something else to do, this is the website to investigate!

We hope you enjoyed these activities!

Submit a photo of you doing this month's activity and you may be featured on our page next month! Or, let us know if you have any suggestions for the next program theme.

If you had fun with our activity, check out Conservation Connect: an environmental education program for students and teachers.

Past Activities

Friends of NCTC Program Activity

c. 2021, Friends of the National Conservation Training Center


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