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Regional Focus

  • North America
  • United States
  • USA - Midwest

Gaylord Nelson and How Earth Day Got Started

Authors: The Kid Should See This, PBS Wisconsin Education
Grades: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Biology, Civics, History
Formats: Google Docs, Google Slides, YouTube Video
Resource Types:
  • Video, 4 minutes, 55 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Lesson Plan
  • Presentation Slides
Synopsis
  • This animated video provides information about Gaylord Nelson, the politician and environmental activist who invented Earth Day. 
  • Students will learn about Nelson's lifelong mission to protect the environment and spread awareness about environmental issues. 
  • This resource also includes a Google Slides presentation with audio and a lesson plan to use with the video. 
Teaching Tips

Positives

  • This video covers an important time in environmental history. Students will learn how environmental ideas started entering into the American consciousness and translated into legislation during the 1970s.
  • The video description contains a variety of helpful links to learn more about Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should be familiar with the following terms: civics, government reform, social justice, conservation, and teach-in.

Differentiation

  • Social studies classes could use this video and lesson plan to discuss the role that the government plays in monitoring the environment and keeping it healthy.
  • History students could expand on the timeline of significant environmental policies and link them to other historic events at each time.
  • Science classes could prepare a presentation on Earth Day and present it during a school assembly in order to get the school community excited and prepared for the holiday.
  • Other resources on this topic include this lesson plan on creating an environmental-awareness mural, this activity on making plantable seed paper, and this media-literacy activity on the government's role in protecting natural resources.
Scientist Notes
This 4-minute video produced by PBS does not have any specific science to verify.  However, it is an important look at an environmental champion, Gaylord Nelson, who is responsible for Earth Day. This resource is recommended for teaching.
Standards
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Civics
      • D2.Civ.10.6-8 Explain the relevance of personal interests and perspectives, civic virtues, and democratic principles when people address issues and problems in government and civil society.
      • D2.Civ.12.3-5 Explain how rules and laws change society and how people change rules and laws.
      • D2.Civ.13.3-5 Explain how policies are developed to address public problems.
      • D2.Civ.6.3-5 Describe ways in which people benefit from and are challenged by working together, including through government, workplaces, voluntary organizations, and families.
    • Dimension 4: Taking Informed Action
      • D4.7.6-8 Assess their individual and collective capacities to take action to address local, regional, and global problems, taking into account a range of possible levers of power, strategies, and potential outcomes.
      • D4.6.3-5 Draw on disciplinary concepts to explain the challenges people have faced and opportunities they have created, in addressing local, regional, and global problems at various times and places.
      • D4.7.9-12 Assess options for individual and collective action to address local, regional, and global problems by engaging in self-reflection, strategy identification, and complex causal reasoning.
    • Dimension 2: History
      • D2.His.1.9-12 Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 5-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.

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