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Celebrating Earth Day with Primary Sources

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Earth Day began on April 22, 1970, but historical primary sources reveal that people’s concern for the environment is much older. How are you and your students planning to celebrate Earth Day? Use ideas from the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog to spark activity planning.

"House of Usefulness" schoolhouse, National Cash Register Company, Dayton, Ohio. Window box
“House of Usefulness” schoolhouse, 1905

Earth Day: Connect with Nature Today and Throughout the Year Learn about the history of Earth Day and find some ideas to spur students of all ages to learn more about the environment.

Primary Sources in Science Classrooms: Size, Scale, and Scientific Communication Explore how scientists study and make sense of objects and phenomena of all shapes and sizes and how they communicate their findings.

Primary Sources in Science Classrooms: Coal River and Human Impacts on Earth’s Systems See how humans interact with the natural environment and how those interactions affect the environment.

Finding Traditions: Exploring the Seasonal Round Explore how seasonal practices are shaped by the environment and how changes to the environment can change a community.

Primary Sources in Science Classrooms: Invasive Species and Historic Newspapers from Chronicling America How did historic newspapers cover the impact of invasive species? How does it compare to newspaper coverage of today? This post provides a starting point to start student research.

A Woman Dropping Her Tea-cup in Horror. William Heath, 1828

Primary Sources in Science Classrooms: Dimensions of Water Quality Study the history of water purification with primary sources.

Bringing Audubon to the Classroom Consider how studying the works of Audubon can lead students to study birds, their role in the ecosystem and the impact of environmental changes on our feathered friends.

What activities will you do to celebrate Earth Day with your students? Let us know in the comments.


  1. For Earth Day, I like students to look at the history of the first environmental movement in the U.S in the early 1900’s. There are great resources that point to the figures that influenced environmental thought- like Roosevelt and Thoreau (for writing Walden’s Pond). But more importantly it is useful to look at the two views of the environment and how they influenced policy then and now- Preservationist (Muir) vs Conservationists (Pinchot). There are many sources to engage your students on the LoC.
    1. A timeline with links to sources and context:
    2. The Evolution of the Conservation Movement:
    3. One of my fav images is found on this blog post:
    Happy Earth Day!!

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