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The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 launched the modern environmental movement. The events of that day, when 20 million Americans took to the streets, led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. Since then, Earth Day has grown exponentially with more than one billion people across 193 countries participating in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

Earth Day Network grew out of the first Earth Day and now works with over 22,000 partners in 193 countries to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement. When Earth Day Network refers to “the environment,” it goes beyond the land, air and water- it encompasses everything down to the food we eat and the schools our children attend. After decades of coordinating the Global Earth Day, Earth Day Network knows a thing or two about environmental advocacy.

With the help of Southwest Airlines, Earth Day Network has been able to expand its existing educational programs and create exciting new ones that motivate and inform students on the importance of taking action for the planet. Everything from the use of environmentally-themed lesson plans to planting school gardens can have a considerable impact on the way a child sees and understands his or her role in conservation. The more informed our young people are, the more we can count on them in the future to maintain and spread the Earth Day message.

Earth Day Network is also a resource for teachers providing lesson plans and a platform to share and discuss ideas with peers through their Educators Network. By engaging both students and teachers, Earth Day Network fosters a comprehensive learning atmosphere helping create the next generation of environmental stewards and activists. Some specific education projects that Earth Day Network is currently undertaking include their recently announced Healthy and Sustainable School Food Journalism Awards and a Green Schools Partnership with a high school in Washington State.

For the Healthy and Sustainable School Food Journalism Awards, Earth Day Network and renowned food author Michael Pollan will be judging article entries from high school students all over the country. This award brings together environmental activism and journalism program advocacy to not only encourage students’ writing skills and creativity, but also to promote awareness among students about the benefits of local and sustainable foods and of eating healthy.

In the Puget Sound area of Washington, Earth Day Network is working with a local high school to organize a National Civic Education Program focusing on water runoff quality. The students will test ground water in the Sound and analyze the results to understand the importance of effluent water quality. Afterwards, the participants will present their findings to their community, working to engage those affected by local groundwater issues. Earth Day Network will then create a Program Toolkit so other schools in the area can replicate the program.

Thanks to the generosity of Southwest Airlines, Earth Day Network representatives are able to travel to Washington to oversee the project as well as participate in the NSPA High School Journalism Convention in San Antonio, Texas, where they will be promoting the Healthy and Sustainable School Food Journalism Awards. The support of Southwest Airlines has allowed Earth Day Network to continue the development of educational programs that are vital to our community and the environment.