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Posted on April 15, 2020 at 6:00 am
Earth Day is next week. Our celebrations of planet Earth might be a little more DIY this year, instead of joining with others. You might get out in your yard and enjoy some dirt or take a walk around the neighborhood on a bear hunt, while social distancing, or enjoy a virtual tour of our National Parks.
A good place to start gathering ideas is the official website for the Earth Day organization. They are promoting a “digital Earth Day” this year. Looking for a planning committee, film screening, awareness campaign, or just a general celebration? They can guide you. They offer a daily challenge you can participate in, as well
If you had planned to volunteer for a project such as tree planting or trail clearing this April 22, you are likely disappointed that those activities are off the table for now. Fortunately, there are virtual volunteer opportunities out there for Earth Day.
If you’re like me at all and just don’t have the brain-space for extracurricular activities right now, I encourage you to get outdoors if you can. In whatever way you are able, spending time with nature is a simple way to de-stress, while showing your appreciation for our planet.
We’re getting some sunnier days now, so now is a great time to explore in your yard, at the park (don’t use the play equipment!), or in the woods. Most importantly, remember to maintain a 6-foot minimum distance from any other people you encounter (and way more feet than that if you see wildlife!).
If you have kids social distancing with you, try bringing a blanket outside with you and just hanging out on the ground for a while. Notice any bugs, twigs, and dirt. Bring a pencil and paper to jot down all the things you see.
This time of year is perfect for cloud watching to see how many creatures you can spot in the sky! I wrote a previous blog post about cloud watching, including simple steps to get started. I encourage you to check it out.
Did you know that regular contact with dirt can increase one’s immune system? Recent research out of the University of Colorado-Boulder also shows a connection between access to bacteria in dirt and reduced stress. I know I feel better after an afternoon pulling weeds and planting veggie starts.
Earth Day activities can include getting active when you go on a scavenger hunt or bear hunt. To do this, you walk around your neighborhood and count how many bears you can spot in neighbors’ windows. Expand this into a wildlife and nature scavenger hunt while you’re walking, seeing how many squirrels, birds, or creepy crawly creatures you see along the way!
Already at our house, we’ve used several nature scavenger hunt checklists that are available online. Something as simple as this one with cute pictures can be fun for the whole family to participate in.
If you’d rather stay indoors, there are plenty online resources to quench your thirst for the outdoors without even putting on shoes.
There are many artists offering coloring pages made of their art. My current favorites are from the “What to Do in a Pandemic… Our Cousins Know” series by Ricardo Levin Morales. These coloring pages depict animals practicing social distancing and self-care, reinforcing the ideas for anyone who loves coloring.
How about tours of several National Parks you can take from your couch? The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks project from Google follows rangers on journeys to places most people never get a chance to explore. Current tours include Kenai Fjords in Alaska, Hawai’i Volcanoes, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Bryce Canyon in Utah, and Dry Tortugas in Florida. The National Park Service also offers Remarkable Redwoods in 360 – Virtual Tour, available in eight episodes.
National Audubon Society offers birding activities geared toward young children, which can be done anywhere, even from your front door!
Earth Day can also be celebrated by reading. The Library District’s OverDrive and hoopla collections offer reading material for all ages on all things Earth related. In the OverDrive booklist “Be a Citizen Scientist!” you’ll find titles for all ages.
Most of all for Earth Day, I hope you stay safe, take care of yourselves, and celebrate Earth any way you can!