by Pattie Schnetzler, Author
Books, like life, are filled with journeys. The journey of Earth Day Birthday began in the mid-1960’s when several of my teachers spoke to me and my classmates about Earth’s environment. They were concerned about the Earth. The air was getting dirty, as was the water. Even the land itself was suffering. I clearly remember one of my teachers telling us about a brand new word “SMOG.” At the time, I thought it was a funny word.
But it was the word “smog” and its meaning of smoke mixed with fog that became the first tiny seed of environmental awareness planted in my brain. Whenever I heard it, something inside me thought that someone actually invented a word to describe the unhealthy air condition of our planet.
Many other people showed concern, not only about the environment of the mid-1960’s, but also how the environment would worsen over time if nothing was done. A group of people in the U.S. tried to let everyone know what was happening. There were rallies and parades. There were speeches and fund-raisers. Soon, newspapers printed stories. Television stations showed programs. Knowledge spread that Earth was in trouble.
Then some people decided to create a special day – Earth Day – to remind people to help Earth. A day in spring was chosen because spring is a time of new beginnings, and Earth Day encourages people to think of new ways to make Earth a healthy place for all living things.
The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970. Twenty million people around the United States celebrated. They learned about recycling, protecting animal homes and cleaning up pollution. Now over two hundred million people in 141 countries around the world celebrate. Earth Day has grown! More importantly, Earth is being helped.
But one day a year is not enough. Earth needs help every day, and I wanted to make a difference. I began to think of ways to put together a book to teach children on multiple levels.
Earth Day Birthday has four main components. The first is depicting well-known animals, who, through their struggles, have made people aware of how humans impact creatures and their habitats.
Secondly, it brings this awareness to children by using a well-known, well-loved Christmas Carol (“The Twelve Days of Christmas”). This allows even the youngest child to memorize the entire book and raises their knowledge of what the Earth gives us – with the last verse reminding us that people need to give help back to Earth.
Thirdly, the text-including the supporting information in the back about Earth Day – encourages class and family discussions and emphasizes how privileged we are to enjoy Earth’s bounties and the interconnectedness of life. Children will begin to understand that what one person does has the potential to affect an entire food chain, or change a habitat or ecosystem forever.
Finally, Earth Day Birthday encourages the awareness that each person, no matter how young, has the responsibility for the health of our planet, not once a year, but every day.
Teachers and parents will find that Earth Day Birthday is perfectly set up to be used as a monthly calendar that can tie into school curriculum or home activities. For example, January is the time of the year for New Year Resolutions. Why not make a few resolutions to help Earth by recycling, planting a garden, feeding the wild birds or cleaning up the local park? April is the month we celebrate Earth Day, so planning a birthday party for Earth can be a lot of fun. What gifts can the children bring? How about a homemade birthday card, or a hand-written poem. Don’t forget to sing Happy Birthday! October is Columbus Day. What can you do to explore and learn more about the earth?
In addition, each month affords an opportunity to further study the animal depicted. In February, learn more about grizzly bears and their habitat. You can even adopt a bear by going to www.defenders.org/adopt. March means studying the Florida Panther and the disappearance of their habitat. What about wolves and their reintroduction into Yellowstone National Park? The possibilities for study, growth and related activities are endless. The important message is that people integrate a healthy Earth attitude into their daily lives.