Early Learners Celebrate Earth Day with Oliver Jeffers

Earth Day has marked our calendars for 54 years now. Back in 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the impact of 150 years of industrial development. Over 50 years later, the campaign continues in 192 countries with over a billion people participating.

Back in 2019 you may remember children's author and artist Oliver Jeffers collaborated with Apple Education and designed an education project for Earth Day to inspire young children to think about the future of their local area. Oliver's challenge was simple but meaningful, and is embedded in our Understanding The World curriculum.

Snap a photo of your environment, draw how you'd like to see it in the future and share your idea with the world. He describes himself as an optimist in a short trailer about the project, explaining that the world becomes a better place because people it imagine it that way. You can watch the trailer here.

Each year, my class watches the trailer and we pause the clip in a few places to talk about the message or discuss the whimsical sketches Oliver makes. I then model how to take a photograph of our outdoor area use the mark-up tools in 'Edit' to create our own images to share.

This project forms part of our 'what happens in forests' enquiry and adds to our conversations about forests. Looking at historical maps of local area we can being to understand bigger concepts like deforestation (these are available on the Digimaps for Schools website). Children were fascinated to learn that their locality would have once been Sherwood Forest; they have previously learned the story of Robin Hood too.

Imagine our playground as an enchanted forest! What would grow here and who would we see?


a photograph of a climbing frame with annotated drawings of trees and wildlife on top.
a photograph of a climbing frame with annotated drawings of trees and wildlife on top.
a photograph of a climbing frame with annotated drawings of trees and wildlife on top.
a photograph of a climbing frame with annotated drawings of trees and wildlife on top.


Young learners took their cameras outdoors and returned with photographs ready to sketch on to. It is only a few taps to move from a photograph to the drawing tools too:

  1. Open Camera and take a photograph,
  2. Tap the thumbnail under the white shutter button,
  3. Tap Edit in the top right corner,
  4. Tap ... on the left hand toolbar,
  5. Tap the pen icon.
  6. Sketch!
  7. Tap Done to save.

After children had imagined their forest environments, we talked about the other plants and wildlife which would live here. Children added more colour, insects and birds to their pictures.

As they were working on real images of their local area, they were eager to see their vision come to life. What could we do to achieve these goals? The ideas to plant flowers and build bug hotels came about. Children also talked about their own gardens and what they could grow at home. Photography made Earth Day meaningful for young learners! Over the coming weeks, children will learn about plant growth and plant their own beans and seeds. The weekly 'Woodland Workshops' will be themed around insect and animal observations. A couple of children had already talked about trees being good for clean air and oxygen, so this discussion will continue as our knowledge and investigation in to Earth Day progresses.

Children will also be visiting Sherwood Pines and one activity they take part in is a project called 'One Best Photo'. Children take a short forest walk with their cameras and capture the story of people, wildlife and timber. You can learn more about this project here.

1 reply

April 23, 2023

Wonderful extension of Earth Day activities, Marc. Thanks for reminding me about Oliver Jeffers Earth Day challenge, so worth a re-visit. Your project and student photo art examples are amazing. Thanks for sharing your story.

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