Happy Earth Day to Earth!

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
~Native American Proverb 

Kat and I love nature projects. Whether we’re gardening, composting, collecting insects, or watching birds, we love to sit and enjoy the wonderful diversity that our planet has to offer. For this reason, Earth Day is one of our favorite holidays.

Last summer, we made some really great “Do Not Litter” signs and hung them up in our neighborhood. Not only was this a fun and creative project, but it actually got our community involved in taking care of our neighborhood! The manager of our local teaching supply store donated her personal supply of twine to hang the signs, and some kids at the park helped us secure one of them to a tree. After the park sign was hung up, the kids held impromptu races to collect as much litter as they could, and the adults even helped too! It was wonderful to see that this simple action had an immediate positive impact on our community as we watched people take responsibility for taking care of our park.

Unfortunately, the sign was removed the very next day. I tried to turn the experience into a lesson in Civics by taking Kat to our local Phoenix Parks and Recreation office to see if we could get our sign back and work out a compromise. Sadly, our sign had been thrown in the dumpster and we weren’t allowed to put up new ones. The reason they gave was, if they allowed our sign, they would have to allow all signs, which could lead to a slippery slope of signs everywhere. We even suggested letting the kids paint the garbage cans, as we had seen in parks in other cities. The most they would let us do was organize a litter pick up party with the people in the neighborhood, but that didn’t seem very exciting for the kids. So, we let the idea sit on the back burner for a while in the hopes that another opportunity might present itself.

Kat remembered the experience as we were talking about ideas for Earth Day. We wanted to do something that would involve kids and have a positive impact on our neighborhood. Kat had a great idea…. we should have an Earth Day Parade! We could make a paper mâché globe, paper plate tambourines, signs, and litter bugs, and we could have races where kids would pick up litter and we would give away prizes! We had some fantastic ideas, and less than a week to pull it all off.

To make our litterbugs, we needed to find some litter! We walked around the neighborhood and picked up garbage, setting aside any piece that looked like a potential head or torso, or if it was just particularly interesting. When we got home, we soaked them in a hot and soapy sink until they were clean. Then it was time to turn them into litter bugs! We painted most of the pieces, used craft scraps for hair and other accessories, and tried to use as many recycled materials as possible. Watching all of these pieces of garbage come together into something resembling a toy was really neat. When we were finished, our litter bugs looked fantastic!

For our paper mâché globe, we used last year’s beach ball which had ended up in our “doggy area” during the winter and was due to be replaced. We washed it off, then covered it in several layers of paper mâché. I used Mod Podge for the first time (I will definitely restock when it runs out, I love this stuff!) to seal and strengthen the globe for the final painted layer. Then Kat and I painted the oceans, and she finished it off with the continents! She even remembered the Arctic!

When we made our signs, we invited some of the neighborhood kids over to help out. One of Kat’s friends came over and worked on the signs and tambourines with us. We made awesome hand print Earth signs and paper plate and bean tambourines! They had a lot of fun making the parade props, and we were all excited, as parade day was getting closer!

Here are all of the prizes we were going to give away to the kids for helping pick up litter!

Finally, all of our preparations were complete and it was parade day! We woke up to a sunny morning, with blue skies, and an expected high temperature of… 102 degrees. It was going to be HOT. When we got to the park, there were very few kids there. Fortunately, there was a large group of people playing soccer, so we set to work running around asking kids if they wanted to be in our parade. My sister came up with the great idea of singing “Happy Earth Day to Earth” to the tune of Happy Birthday, and our parade was on!

5 signs, 12 tambourines, 7 litter bugs, 8 biodegradable flower pots with seeds, and 1 parade puppet!

We marched around our park waving our signs and puppets, banging tambourines, throwing our Earthball, and singing at the top of our lungs! Parents, dog walkers, and other park attendees smiled as the kids proudly paraded past them. It was hot, but we were having fun. Our parade was a success!

When we finished the parade, we each took a plastic bag and ran around the park looking for trash to pick up. We talked about how easily dropping a little bit of garbage can lead to a whole lot of trash. It may only seem like a couple of bottle caps or an ice cream wrapper to us, but what if everyone thought this way? Our whole park would be covered in garbage! What about the animals who make their home in the park? They could mistake the trash for food and eat it! The kids remarked upon how many caps and papers there were, and how they hoped that people would think more about what happens when they litter.

When we were done, we proudly showed off how much trash we had collected. We washed our hands, and went back to collect our prizes. The kids LOVED the litter critters! They thought that it was so cool that you could take ordinary pieces of garbage and turn them into really cool toys! One girl picked out a biodegradable flower pot to take home and seemed really interested in learning about how it would break down when planted, and the flower pot would return some of the nutrients back into the soil.

All in all this was a fantastic Earth Day! I am very proud of my daughter for coming up with such a great idea, and helping to put it all together. I am also very proud of all of the kids who participated in our Earth Day Parade and braved the heat for our litter pick up! Everyone seemed to have a really great time, and they also seemed to have come away with a better appreciation for the planet that we live on, and the animals that we share it with. Next year, I think we’ll include the kids in making the litter critters, as they seemed to really get a kick out of those. Perhaps we’ll set up a craft table at the park and do it there. Of course, why wait until next year? After all….


Happy Exploring!

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