Earth Day Lesson Plan for High School Students

Purpose: Identify and quantify the financial impact of green living and environmentally friendly practices in everyday life.

Read the following information to the class:

Earth Day, April 22 every year is a day to celebrate the blessings of our planet, and a day to commit to take personal responsibility for our environment, and a day to commit to green living.

The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin saw firsthand the damage we were doing to the environment when he toured the coast off Santa Barbara just after a massive oil spill. He realized that Americans needed to become more aware of their impact on the environment, and envisioned Earth Day as a day of teaching about the environment, a day of “Teach Ins”.

The first celebration involved an estimated 20 million Americans, mostly students. Today it is estimated that over 1 billion people around the world take part in Earth Day activities.

In 1969 only about 1% of Americans polled said that protecting the environment was an important goal. In 1971 that number increased to 25%. Today, 75% of Americans believe that protecting the environment is important. This is an impressive and significant increase since the time before that first Earth Day.

The Project:

Have the students form groups of 3-5.

Each student forms a list of changes they could make which benefit the environment. These changes should be quantifiable. Examples include: change the thermostat so that the heater runs an hour less each day in winter or an hour less each day in summer; carpool to school; combine shopping trips to eliminate one trip per week; replace 6 incandescent light bulbs with CFL’s; use cold water instead of warm for one load of laundry per week; refill water bottles instead of buying new; turning the water off while brushing; reducing shower time by 2 minutes per day.

Quantify the impact. For example if the air conditioner runs one less hour per day, how much electricity does that save per day, week, and year. Then calculate energy costs for their area to come up with the economic impact. If a 2.5 ton air conditioner uses 3.5 Kilowatt hours if run 1 hour per day, and electricity costs 12 cents per kilowatt hour, then the savings are 32 cents per day or 13 dollars per month. In each group, different students can research different areas, energy, fuel, personal consumption, water, etc.

Have each group calculate the average yearly savings for each student in the group, then calculate how much money one year of savings would grow to by the time they are 65 if they invested it at 5 percent and 10 percent interest. Each group should report their findings to the class.

Students will need some time outside of class for their research.

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