Earth Day is also the ideal opportunity to incorporate a Service Learning project! Service Learning is a strategy which combines community service, instruction, and reflection to enrich a learning experience, teach responsibility, citizenship, and build awareness within a community. Ten Simple Steps to Plan and Implement a Service Project:

Nature Mandala Summer Camp 2012Earth Day occurs annually on April 22nd and falls on a Tuesday this year.  This globally recognized event was founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970 as a way to bring awareness to air, water and soil pollution.  Observing groups of people donning gloves and holding trash bags on the side of the road on this day as a way to show respect to the earth is not an uncommon sight.  Earth Day is also the ideal opportunity to incorporate a Service Learning project!  Service Learning is a strategy which combines community service, instruction, and reflection to enrich a learning experience, teach responsibility, citizenship, and build awareness within a community. 

Earth Day and service learning projects create a natural bridge to discussing the five ethical practices of the Yamas as taught in the ancient writings of the Yoga Sutras, referred to in kids'  yoga as the 'yoga principles'.   As you celebrate Earth Day with you students, here are some questions to ponder:  

•    Practice Peace (Ahimsa-Nonharming):  Are you living in a way that is respectful toward all things living on this earth? What are some ways we can do so?

•    Be Honest (Satya-Truthfulness):  Do you feel that taking care of our environment is important? If so, do your actions reflect that truth?

•    Be Generous (Asteya-Non stealing / Aparigraha-Letting go of desires):  Are you present as you move from one place to another noticing the beauty of the natural world around you and being mindful of the footprint you leave behind?  What opportunities do you have to show appreciation for, and to give back to, the earth that supports and sustains you? Are you able to appreciate the world around with you without needing to own it.  Can you watch a butterfly in flight without needing to capture it?

•    Practice Moderation (Brahmacharya):  Do you only use what you need?  

What is the difference between Community Service and Service Learning? 
Great question!   Community Service participants volunteer for the primary purpose of meeting the needs of others and bettering the community as a whole.  Service Learning involves investigating needs that exist within a community, planning and conducting a project to meet those needs, tying in the educational aspects of the project, and then celebrating the efforts!

Ten Simple Steps to Plan and Implement a Service Project:  

1.    Establish a need-What has captured the need of your students?  

2.    Generate a list of ideas that would address the need-Then choose one!

3.    Catalog available skills-What skills do your students possess?  Are they strong?  Artistic? What resources can they access to use to meet the needs of the project?

4.    Make a plan of action-List the steps.    

5.    Prepare supplies-Gather supplies, set a schedule, etc.

6.    Take action-Carry out the plan and re-evaluate if needed.  

7.    Process the outcome-Is there more to be done in the future?

8.    Introspection-Process thoughts and feelings through discussions, journaling, art, movement, etc.

9.    Inform others-Let other people know of this issue and any future attention it may need.  

10.    Celebrate your efforts-Have a party, you have worked hard!

Feeling a bit stuck on where to begin?  Check out these great ideas to get you started:

•    Create a children's nature garden, labeling plants and trees and scheduling guided tours.

•    Start a recycling center at school.

•    Hold an invention contest with entries made out of recycled goods.

•    Start an Environmental Club

•    Design and paint a community mural

•    Write and produce a play about a current issue

Gather your students and start planning!

How do you celebrate earth day with your children or students? Share with us and each other below!

 Written by Sally Delisle, ChildLight Yoga Trainer and Yoga 4 Classrooms Trainer.