HEART’s mission is to foster compassion & respect for all living beings & the environment by educating youth & teachers in humane education

10 Great Eco Activities for Kids to Celebrate Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day we put together a collection of fun and eco-friendly activities you can do with kids. Whether it’s making art out of trash, thinking up creative uses for the paper that normally gets tossed in the recycling bin, or reimagining the plastic water bottle, we’ve got great activities for you.


This is a recent activity we’ve started doing at HEART. Educator Kim Korona looked at all the perfectly usable paper that goes into recycling bins each day and decided to repurpose it to create eco-journals, a fun and functional activity for kids and adults alike.

Recycled Self-Watering Herb Garden

Moomah Magazine, a great friend of HEART’s, shows you how with just a few simple items you’ll be able to make your very own self watering herb garden made from recycled plastic! (For a boatload of recycled crafts, check out Moomah’s Pinterest page. They have a fabulous selection.)

self watering herb garden

Recycled Bird Feeders

Here at HEART we’ve made two kinds of bird feeders with kids. The first made using pine cones, peanut butter and bird seed, and the second made from a recycled beverage carton. Both are great options to teach kids about reusing and helping out local wildlife.

Decorate a Reusable Bag

Want to get a kid excited about ditching disposable plastic bags and remembering to grab a reusable bag? Have them decorate their own. We’ve been doing this particular activity with kids for years, giving them their own fair trade organic cotton bag, fabric markers and stencils and allowing them to decorate their own reusable bag.

Make a Reusable Bag Out of an Old T-Shirt

For older kids, this is a fantastic way to recycle old t-shirts. The folks at Ecouterre have instructions on how to turn that old tee into a vegetable bag. This one does require some sewing.

diy eco bags

Make Postcards Out of Upcycled Cereal Boxes

Most of us regularly recycle cereal boxes, pasta boxes, and cookie or cracker boxes. Instead of tossing them straight into the recycling bin, you can repurpose them using the creative instructions brought to you by the site Yesterday on Tuesday.

diy postcard

Make Educational Displays Out of Recycled Objects

Recently at HEART, our kids created educational displays showing how plastic impacts our oceans. All you need is a poster (or use a large piece of cardboard to make the project even more eco-friendly), draw an outline of a sea creature like a sea turtle, and have the kids fill in the outline with pieces of plastic that could end up in the ocean such as bottle caps. Then, have the kids write down information about how we can keep our oceans and the animals who live there safe by recycling, reusing and reducing.

student pollution project

Make Art Out of Trash

Don’t want to limit your kid’s creativity? Gather together a whole bunch of different types of trash (especially anything colorful) and hand them some glue and tape and let their imagination run wild. Perhaps to focus them, tell them that the theme is animals or the earth and see what they come up with. When we’ve done this activity in the past, some pretty incredible pieces were created.

make art out of trash

Get Outside and Clean Up!

Want to get outdoors on Earth Day? Nothing says “We care about the planet” like putting on some gloves, grabbing a bag and picking up trash. Teaching our kids to take direct action is so important. The earth is everyone’s responsibility. Why not dedicate the day to helping to keep her clean so that all the world’s plants and animals can live healthy and happy lives. You can do it on your own or search online to see if there is one organized in your area. Or, gather up a group of friends with kids and do it as a group.

kids pollution

Plant Some Seeds

If you have a yard, you might consider planting a tree. If you live in an apartment, maybe some herbs. No matter where you live, teaching kids to plant seeds is a fun activity for everyone. If you want to plant something outside, consider a plant native to your area and one that benefits other animals. (You can look up the types of flowers that attract butterflies and other pollinators.) If you plant seeds for food, make sure to talk to your child about why buying or growing local is great for the planet.

kids gardening

There is no shortage of great eco-friendly activities to do on Earth Day. In fact, there are so many, you might just need to extend Earth Day so it’s celebrated all year long. After all, the earth takes care of us every day. We can certainly return the favor and teach our children at the same time.

HEART Kids Make Art to Show Danger of Pollution

student pollution project

A number of years ago images taken by photographer Chris Jordan showing the plight of the albatross went viral online. Inspired by those heartbreaking photographs of the massive birds filled with plastic, HEART instructors Kim Korona and Chris Parrucci came up with a powerful lesson to teach kids about the true impact of pollution.
As part of the Living Wild Series in our after-school program at Animal Haven, kids took a hard look at plastic, how we use it and where it ends up once we dispose of it. They learned that animals like the albatross, seagull, rainbow fish, and sea turtle mistake plastic bags, bottle caps and other scraps of trash for food, injuring them or even causing them to die. The students understood that their actions matter and that by taking steps to reduce, reuse and recycle they can help save these animals and keep our planet clean.
To educate others, the students did their own version of Chris Jordan’s work by making portraits of animals out of plastic trash.
Instructor Kim Korona said about the project, “The Living Wild Service Project was a huge success. Our young participants, only 5 – 8 yrs. old created beautiful works of art to demonstrate how bottle caps and other small pieces of waste can cause harm to wildlife when they ingest it. The kids worked well in groups to create their art and they wrote the most thoughtful messages around their animals, asking people to ‘please not litter’ and to ‘save a life.’ We were so proud of them!”
Check out their art!

pollution art

pollution art

pollution art


Our Students Were Shocked to Learn this Fact about Child Labor

letter to rahm emanuel

Oppressive child labor is one of the many important issues that we teach our students about through our 10-lesson curriculum. Children who work under oppressive child labor get paid little money, work long hours in dangerous conditions, and often are unable to get an education.
When most people think of child labor, they picture children who worked in the coal mines during the early 1900’s or children working in sweatshops in foreign countries. However, our students were shocked to find out that oppressive child labor is still occurring right now in the United States.
According to the Human Rights Watch, every year hundreds of thousands of children are working in oppressive child labor on U.S. farms across the United States.
Children as young as 12-years-old can legally work on farms with their parents’ permission up to 14-hours a day and are paid less than minimum wage. They can also be exposed to pesticides and are four times more likely to drop out of high school.
Our students were outraged to learn these facts and decided to do something about it. So they wrote letters to politicians about this important issue encouraging them to take action!
Ralitsa, a 6th grade student at Dirksen Elementary School, wrote to Mayor Rahm Emanuel:

“Recently, I learned that children on some farms were being forced (they do not have much of a choice) to work as migrant farm workers. They get paid very little every day. They have to stop going to school and leave their education for a few months to work this job. Pesticides are thrown on top of them while they are working… I believe this act is very cruel. Since you are a powerful politician, you could possibly help with this problem.”
Amby, a 5th grade student at Ward Elementary School, wrote to President Barack Obama:

“Recently, I learned about child labor and how they have to work hard on farms. They get too little pay, about a dollar per hour, and they have to work for 12 whole hours. They can hurt themselves from sharp sheers. They can also get seriously hurt from pesticides. Since they have to work on child labor, they have to skip or drop out of school, which is bad for their education… Please try to ban child labor.”
We couldn’t be more proud of Ralitsa, Amby, and all our other students who decided to take action to help children who are working on farms! If you want to learn more about this lesson or any of our other lessons, don’t hesitate to contact Mickey at Mickey@teachhumane.org.

HEART Chicago Students Make PSAs for Companion Animals

Over the past few weeks, HEART students in Chicago have been learning about helping companion animals. Our students learned about how there are approximately 6-8 millions dogs and cats without homes, the benefits of spaying and neutering, the problems with puppy mills, and why companion animal adoption is so important.
To raise awareness about companion animal issues, our students created informative posters to be displayed at their schools and online. We asked Anna and Jesus, two of our 6th grade students at Dirksen Elementary School, to tell us more the project and the posters that they created.

student drawing animal shelters
Could you describe your poster for us?

Anna:  I created this poster as a project. It shows two animals, a dog and a cat, next to a shelter. On the poster, it explains how to stop overpopulation and why you should adopt at shelters instead of pet stores. The main idea of the poster was to explain to people that there are way more dogs, cats, and more animals than homes.
What do you hope people learn from your poster?

Anna: I want people to learn that there are many animals that aren’t spayed or neutered, and yours could be one of them. Nobody wants more overpopulation than there already is. So you should spay or neuter your dog or cat. Also, if you want to help out with this problem, adopt at a local shelter to help them. I had so much fun on this project, as I got to draw and spread an important message.

student drawing puppy mills

Could you describe your poster for us?

Jesus: In my poster I drew a dog in a cage pleading to be free. This explains how dogs feel at puppy mills. I wrote the most important facts to inform the reader about the topic and my title to grab their attention.
What do you hope people learn form your poster?

Jesus: I would like everyone to understand that puppy mills are hurting dogs and that what they say are lies. I think everyone should speak up and get the word out to ban puppy mills.
We couldn’t be more proud of Anna and Jesus and their passion for helping animals. However, Anna and Jesus are not the only students who made posters about helping dogs and cats. To see more of our students’ posters, visit our Flickr page.

I HEART How To: Make Your Own Eco Journal


There are two truths every educator knows. 1. Kids love crafts. 2. Kids go through an enormous amount of paper, even in this digital age. In an effort to give kids what they love but to make a smaller impact on the world’s forests, we have started a new activity that kids just love. Making eco-journals.
In our new “I HEART How To” we’ll show you how to take partially used paper (paper that was only written on one side) from recycling bins to transform it into a fully functional notebook for kids to decorate and write in. Through this fun activity, kids get to stretch their creative muscles and learn why it’s so important to use an entire piece of paper.
Teacher’s Tip: This would be a fantastic activity to do after a lesson on deforestation. Have fun!