Celebrate Earth Day

Bring environmental justice and awareness into your classroom this Earth Day with these videos, articles, and lesson plans. Explore the history of the environmental justice movement, the racial implications of pollution and waste disposal, and the role of new technologies in conservation efforts. Use these resources to inspire students to preserve the health of our planet and its inhabitants.

  • The Lowdown | A Brief History of the First Earth Day and What We Can Learn From Its Success Lesson Plan

    Earth Day grew out of the environmental movement in the late 1960s in response to a series of environmental disasters that took lives, marred natural beauty and threatened animal species. An estimated 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day – April 22, 1970 – which consisted of a series of local events designed to raise awareness of pressing environmental concerns. Today, the environmental movement is experiencing a strong resurgence amid fears of climate change, rising sea levels and carbon emissions. Yet the issue has grown far more partisan and divisive than it was when Earth Day first began. In this Lowdown lesson, students will analyze the origins and history of Earth Day, as well as evaluate how political and public support for Earth Day has changed over time.

    This video is part of our Celebrate Earth Day collection that explores the history of the environmental justice movement, the racial implications of pollution and waste disposal, and the role of new technology in the conservation efforts.  

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Reality of Plastic | Engineering for Good

    Plastic. It's super useful but it's also a big problem for the environment. Enough plastic is thrown away every year to circle the earth four times! The main issue is that plastic doesn't break down, meaning it sticks around for a very long time. This video gives a quick overview of the scope of the plastic problem and what some people are doing to try to solve it.


    Grades: 6-12
  • The Environmental Movement and the First Earth Day

    Learn about the first Earth Day in this video from the American Masters film, A Fierce Green Fire. Interest in conservation increased during the 1960s as people became more aware of pollution, endangered species, and Earth’s unique characteristics. The first official Earth Day was held in April 1970 and included large demonstrations across the country in support of the environment.

    See the Support Materials for an activity using documents from the first Earth Day.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Environmental Justice in Dallas

    Follow a Dallas community's fight to receive federal Superfund status to clean up the damage from a high-polluting lead smelter in this video segment adapted from Earthkeeping: "Toxic Racism." Hear from a reporter from the National Law Journal who explains some of the health effects of lead exposure and how after a cursory cleanup of a lead smelter site in West Dallas, the community was ignored, despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control about elevated blood lead levels. Meet Luis Sepulveda, a community member who organized the West Dallas Coalition for Environmental Justice, which eventually succeeded in having the site win Superfund status.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Environmental Justice: Opposing Industrial Hog Farming

    This video segment adapted from Earthkeeping: Toxic Racism looks at how pollution from an industrial hog farm impacts people who live near the farm. Learn about waste lagoons and other environmental hazards from animal feeding operations. Hear the story of how one hog farm has affected a community in North Carolina and how residents sued the farm for violations of the Clean Water Act. In addition, learn about how minority communities are unfairly affected by environmental issues.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Environmental Justice: Opposing a Toxic Waste Landfill

    In this video segment, adapted from Earthkeeping: Toxic Racism, learn about the beginning of the environmental justice movement. Meet various experts and leaders who describe the issues of environmental racism and justice, and learn about the watershed event—the controversy over the location of a toxic landfill in Warren County, North Carolina—that brought the issues to national attention in the early 1980s. See footage of the residents protesting the transport of PCB-contaminated soil to their community, and hear about how the incident triggered further investigations into the relationship between communities of color and toxins.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Pollution and the Environmental Movement

    See how concern about pollution led to the passing of major environmental laws in this video from the American Masters film, A Fierce Green Fire. While initially many technological innovations after World War II were welcomed, some of these new technologies had harmful side effects. In her book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson showed how some pesticides were threatening wildlife. After the first Earth Day in 1970, environmental laws like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act were signed or strengthened and the Environmental Protection Agency was created.


    Grades: 6-12
  • Rachel Carson's Silent Spring

    This video segment adapted from American Experience: "Rachel Carson's Silent Spring" tells the story of how biologist Rachel Carson was driven to write Silent Spring, a book that questioned the safety of pesticide use in the United States. The most famous pesticide at the time was DDT, a chemical that had saved millions of lives in World War II from insect-borne disease and was thought to be safe. But Carson found evidence that DDT was poisoning birds and represented a real threat to humans as well. The video states that Carson was not against the use of chemicals altogether; rather, she thought the chemical industry was pushing their overuse for its economic gain, at the expense of health and the environment.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Let Them Eat Flies

    Go behind the scenes at an innovative "bug farm" in Ohio, where engineer and entrepreneur Glen Courtright harnesses the power of flies to turn food waste into sustainable fish feed.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Bio-Inspiration: Nature as Muse | QUEST

    For hundreds of years, scientists have been inspired by design ideas from structures in nature. Now, biologists and engineers at the University of California at Berkeley are working together to design a broad range of new products including revolutionary adhesives and new methods of locomotion. Learn about their work in this video segment from KQED's QUEST.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Water Pollution Investigation

    Water pollution is the contamination of water resources by harmful wastes or toxins. This type of pollution can be dangerous to animals and plant populations in and around lakes, rivers, polluted groundwater areas or oceans, and can pose major problems for humans as well. Explore the detrimental effects of plastic waste pollution on the San Francisco Bay—specifically, mercury contamination, with this resource group from QUEST.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Lesson 1: Watersheds and Nonpoint Source Pollution Basics- LGREI

    The first video in the Groundswell Communities for Clean Water series introduces the concept of a watershed and sources of nonpoint source pollution.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Redwoods and Climate Change

    In this video from QUEST produced by KQED, follow a group of UC Berkeley scientists to the top of a 320-foot redwood in Mendocino County. See how scientists are trying to predict how the remaining redwoods and their descendants might fare in the face of climate change in the decades to come. 

    Find more climate education resources in KQED's Clue into Climate collection.  


    Grades: 6-12
  • Human Activities That Threaten Biodiversity | Biodiversity Course

    Human activities and population growth threaten biodiversity in almost every corner of our planet. Local threats to species richness include land-use changes, pollution, resource exploitation, and invasive species.

    Grades: 5-12
  • Regulating Greenhouse Gases

    In this lesson from Clue into Climate, produced by KQED, students will learn about how destruction of the world's largest rain forest affects global climate change. Prior to engaging in this lesson, students will need to have a general knowledge of greenhouse gases (particularly carbon dioxide), the greenhouse effect, and global warming.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Evidence of Global Warming | QUEST

    Global warming is a term that describes the overall warming of Earth over the last 40 years. Explore how rising sea levels, increases in ocean heat, and melting glaciers provide evidence of this phenomenon in this interactive explainer.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Green Technology: Sustaining the Earth

    In this interactive activity produced for Teachers' Domain, explore five different areas of research and innovation in green technology: renewable energy and conservation; green building; transportation; manufacturing; and pollution and waste management. Within the categories, investigate examples of innovations in solar power, biofuels, energy efficiency, materials efficiency, planes and trains, automobiles, electronic paper, consumer electronics, carbon capture and storage, and bioremediation.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Earth’s Albedo and Global Warming

    This interactive activity adapted from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey illustrates the concept of albedo—the measure of how much solar radiation is reflected from Earth's surface. The balance between the amount of solar radiation reflected and absorbed by Earth's surface plays an important role in regulating global temperature. Learn about how Earth materials, such as snow, ice, and water, differ in their ability to reflect and absorb the Sun's energy and how melting polar ice creates a positive feedback loop that accelerates global warming. Investigate how the presence of pollution, such as soot, lowers the albedo of ice and further increases melting. In addition, observe the decline in Arctic sea ice cover from 1979–2007 and the effect of melting ice on sea levels.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Airborne Wind Energy

    The strongest and most consistent winds are found in the jet stream as high as 30,000 feet above the earth. In this video from QUEST produced by KQED, learn about the benefits and challenges of wind energy. In this video from QUEST produced by KQED, learn about the similarities and differences between conventional and airborne wind turbines. Also, explore the benefits and challenges of wind energy.

    Grades: 6-12