A family-oriented Project Planet for Earth Day
Monday is Earth Day, the perfect day to start your family on the path to greener living.
If you desire to "clean up" the way you live, you don't have to change your whole lifestyle at once. Baby steps are the key, and getting the kids involved when they're young will help them grow up to be good stewards of the Earth.
Here are nine ways to get your kids excited about greener living.
Recycle and reuse
Recycling is one of the easiest green things you can do and teach. Show your child what can go in the recycling bin. An extensive list of what can and cannot be included is usually found on your city's website; find Fort Worth's at Fortworthtexas.gov/solidwaste/recycling.
You can use some of your "trash" for crafts. A plastic milk jug can become a cup for playing catch. An empty plastic bottle can be filled with beans or other small items to make a noisemaker.
Download a free activity guide with instructions for these crafts and other activities for kids ages 3 to 8 at GreenKidCrafts.com/Earth-Day.
You know to recycle paper, plastic, metal and glass. But organic material can also be given a second life. Visit the Compost Outpost at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden (3220 Botanic Garden Blvd.) to learn how to build a compost pile in your back yard with leaves, grass and other yard waste. Follow the signs through this self-guided demonstration area with information for adults and kids from Tad O'Sense, Ima Gardener and Professor B.A. Composter. The Compost Outpost is to the left of the big entrance clock and open any time the garden is.
A Backyard Composting 101 class will take place 1-3 p.m. May 11 at the Compost Outpost. Talk with certified master composters to create a plan for your yard. The class is come and go, and there is no charge. For information, call 817-871-7686.
Books are an easy way to introduce children to a new topic, and this one is no exception. The Lorax is at it again. This time he's teaching kids practical ways to live a greener life. How To Help the Earth -- by the Lorax is a 48-page paperback in the Step into Reading series by Tish Rabe. Tips include basics like turning off lights when you leave a room and carrying a reusable lunch box. It is a Step 3 book, which is best for children ages 5 to 8. It is available at Barnes & Noble for $4. If you haven't read the original story, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, it remains a classic. We found it in hardcover at Barnes & Noble for $15.
Take the family to a local farm. You will learn about where your food comes from and may get hands-on experience. Latte Da Dairy in Flower Mound has an open house several times a year. Visitors can tour the farm, play with the goats and watch milking demos. The next open house is 11 a.m.-3 p.m. May 12. (It could be a fun Mother's Day outing!) Visitors may come and go, and there is no charge.
Gnismer Farm in Arlington lets visitors pick their own produce, seasonally. Now through May, strawberries are ripe for picking several days per week. A container will be provided, but bring cash for payment. Call or check the website for the current week's schedule.
Latte Da Dairy, 1304 Bridle Bit Road, Flower Mound. 817-490-5004. Lattedadairy.com
Gnismer Farm, 3010 S. Bowen Road, Arlington. 817-469-8704. Gnismer.com
Every year at the end of March -- this year the date was March 23 -- people around the world celebrate Earth Hour by turning off the lights for one hour.
You don't have to wait all year to participate, though. Designate a time on Earth Day for everyone in your family to turn off the lights and electronics. Spend that time together playing a board game, reading or riding bicycles. Whether it is just for an hour of for a whole weekend, the planet will benefit and so will your family.
While the weather is nice, head outdoors to your favorite park for a nature scavenger hunt. You can easily create a list based on your child's age. For younger kids, include a few colors -- something red, something brown -- and shapes -- something round, something square. For older kids, get creative with descriptions: something smooth, something pretty. Specifics are good, too: a leaf, a rock, a seed. You may also want to bring along a camera and include items to photograph rather than touch, such as a bird, a spider web. If you bring along paper and crayons, leaf and bark rubbings are fun additions.
For 30 years, the Omni Theater at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History has been educating viewers about the natural world. One of its current movies, Flight of the Butterflies, tells the amazing story of the migration of monarch butterflies. This film is rated G (appropriate for all ages). There are multiple showtimes daily. Tickets are $6 for ages 2 to 12 and seniors; $7 ages 13 to 64; 1600 Gendy St., Fort Worth.
After you see the film, your family can take steps to help the monarchs. Plant a butterfly garden in your yard with milkweed and other flowers that the butterflies rely on. You only need a small space. Find instructions and a guide to milkweed types at Flightofthebutterflies.com/get-involved.
The Lyrid meteor shower is visible in the night sky around Earth Day every year. Although the peak was Monday morning, it lasts until Thursday and there may be as many as 20 meteors per hour. You will have to time your viewing for after the moon sets but before the sun rises. This window falls between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.
If you are not an early bird or do not have a view of the sky unobstructed by light, you may have a better opportunity to study the night sky at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
The museum hosts star parties on the third Saturday of each month in the museum's south parking lot. The Fort Worth Astronomical Society sets up telescopes and guides visitors in viewing stars, planets, and other sights. Star parties begin at sunset and last until 10:30 p.m. Admission is free. The next event is May 18. Find out more at fwmuseum.org/skyline-noble-planetarium.
Arbor Day falls on the last Friday of April, and this year it's April 26. Planting a tree is beneficial to the planet and can be a fun family experience. Trees provide clean air, shade and an excuse to dig in the dirt.
To help you decide on the most appropriate tree for your yard, the Texas A&M Forest Service offers a free online guide at Texastreeplanting.tamu.edu. Answer a few questions about the size of your space and other preferences. You will also find tips for buying, planting and caring for your new tree.