Earth Day is one of my favorite days to celebrate with middle school students. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the importance of STEM and how it applies to real-world problems. Check out these Earth Day STEM activities and make an awesome plan for Earth Day!
Short on time? Grab ready-to-go Earth Day activities here!
1. Design a solution that addresses an environmental challenge
Earth Day is a great time to engage students in environmental science STEM challenges. The big, real-world problems (e.g., global warming, microplastics, air pollution, deforestation, etc.) will grab your middle schoolers’ attention. They’ll be ready to take action! The options for STEM challenges are endless! In the past, my students have had an awesome experience designing water filtration systems, wind-powered cars, and recycled paper. If you want a ready-made challenge, check out this Wind-Powered Car Challenge!
2. Watch a environmental science documentary
What could be better than a movie day that fully engages your students and helps them consider the beauty of nature?
Here are some of my favorites that check all the middle school boxes:
- A Plastic Ocean (2016): In this eye-opening documentary, students will learn about the impact of humans on the environment. They will explore the issue of disposable plastic products and the resulting environmental and health challenges.
- Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest (1992): Students will explore how human activities can have a negative impact on wildlife and their habitats.
- My Octopus Teacher (2020): This Oscar-winning documentary follows the relationship between a filmmaker and an octopus in the South African kelp forest. It will captivate your students, as they observe the octopus’ life cycle and her daily struggles and triumphs in the kelp forest ecosystem.
- One Strange Rock (2018): This documentary television series produced by National Geographic explores the unique and interconnected nature of Earth’s natural systems. Each episode focuses on a different aspect of the planet, from its formation and geology to the importance of the oceans and the impact of humans on the environment.
- The Biggest Little Farm (2018): This film follows a family as they leave their big city life and create a biodiverse, self-sustaining farm. Students will learn about the importance of biodiversity in ecosystems while becoming emotionally invested in the lives of the people and animals on this special farm.
- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019): This film is based on the true story of 14-year-old William Kamkwamba and his journey to end the drought plaguing his community by bringing wind power to his town in Malawi. Students will see William use the engineering design process to create a solution to a real-world problem and the role perseverance plays in the process.
- The Pollinators (2019): This film explores the commercial honeybee industry, the connection between pollinators and our food supply, and the many threats facing honeybees and native pollinators throughout the country. Students will be inspired to do their part to “save the bees!”
Visit my store to find ready-to-go movie guides to go with each of these awesome films!
3. Facilitate a campus or neighborhood clean up
If you have time to prepare, consider going on a walking field trip around your school’s campus or even the neighborhood (with the proper permission of course)! Ask the PTO, parents, or local businesses to donate gloves and trash bags. Before the trip, talk about watersheds. Help. your students understand the connection of litter around the neighborhood and how it impacts the local and regional community. To really get things going… stage a competition! Which team of students will fill the most bags or collect the most pounds of trash? The things middle school dreams are made of!
4. Research environmental issues and take a stand
If you are looking for a more independent activity, choose an environmental issue (global warming, the decline of bees, deforestation, etc.). Then have students research possible solutions along with the pros and cons of each solution. Next, have them make a claim about the best solution for the problem and back it up with evidence. Finally, students can preset their findings to the class in the form of a poster, research paper, oral presentation, or class debate. Check out the ready-to-go environmental science research and writing activities below!
What favorite Earth Day STEM activities did I miss?
Do you have a favorite way to spend Earth Day? Tell us your favorite middle school Earth Day STEM activities in the comments below!