Join us in celebration of the Earth and its phenomenon through Nebraska Extension’s Annual Earth Festival!

Because of COVID-19, Gage, Jefferson and Saline Counties are unable to host the traditional Earth Festival, so Extension Staff put their heads together and developed a hybrid program aiming to foster an interest in agriculture, natural resources, and the environment through hands-on experiences. This year, we are doing a month-long celebration throughout October featuring lesson plans (delivered by teachers), virtual [or in-person] instruction (to be delivered by Extension Personnel), and virtual field trips so you can pick and choose what you want to do and participate in a way that works for you.

As part of our hybrid program, Nebraska Extension faculty have teamed up with our partner organizations, and local businesses to build an innovative program focusing on a myriad of topics related to Earth. All lessons align with Nebraska Science and Social Studies content standards (5th-6th grade), and follow Nebraska 4-H’s Experiential Learning and Targeting Life Skills models.

To sign up for any of the lessions or virtual field trips listed below please visit the Earth Festival 2020 Registration form. Please fill out the form and request the dates you would like the materials in your classroom. Please contact Darci Pesek at or 402-729-3487 with any questions!

Hands-On Lessons (Teacher-Led)

Soil is a Filter + Kit: Students will discover the role of soil in having good drinking water. Students will also learn that soils physically and chemically filter impurities out of water. We will provide teachers with all the materials needed for the activity including teacher activity notes, student worksheets, and a supply kit (aluminum trays for containment, 3 oz and 5 oz plastic cups, tooth picks, bucket of sand, bucket of fine soil, bucket of organic matter, scoops, containers of water, 2 pouring pitchers, coffee filters, grape Kool-Aid packets). The lesson focuses on hypothesis formulation, following instructions/methods, and encouraging students to ask “so what” at the conclusion. Depending on the number of students in a class, this activity can take up to 45 minutes for setup, hypothesis formulation, conducting the activity, drawing conclusions, and cleanup.

Wind Energy + Kit:  Students will participate in an activity to design, build and test wind turbine blades.  Students will keep an engineering notebook to record their progress and process. Students will use the engineering design process to solve the wind power problem presented to them. Through the process students will learn about wind turbines and how they convert kinetic energy into electrical energy.  

Working Together + Kit:  Students demonstrate how everyone contributes to the pollution of a river as it flows through a watershed and recognize that everyone's contribution can be reduced. Through this lesson, students will: distinguish between point and non-point source pollution, recognize that everyone contributes to and is responsible for a river or lake's water quality and identify Best Management Practices to reduce pollution.

Invisible Water + Kit:  What causes water to condense out of the air? Water is important for all life on earth. It plays a big part in determining the weather. Water has three forms — solid, liquid, and gas. The objective of this lesson is for students to recognize how water forms precipitation and how that relates to the water cycle. This lesson comes with a lesson plan and a kit to complete the experiments in the lesson.

Virtual Instruction or In-Classroom Instruction (Extension-Led)

Water Cycle + Kit: Students will gain an understanding of how water cycles and is found in nearly every aspect of our world.  Identifying water sources, and how water may move from one source to another they will then experience water cycling.  Students then will assume the role of a water molecule and move through their own individual Water Cycle.  A very hands on, fun and active learning session.  This approximately 30 minute session will be delivered as kit that can be dropped off at your school with a live Zoom session with an Extension staff member to lead the lesson or in-person at your school if you would prefer that option.  

Tree Planting + Tree:  A virtual lesson will be given about the importance of trees, how to plant properly, and how to care for them. There will be a pre-recorded video of a tree planting activity. There will also be time designated for the class to go out and plant a tree at the school. This will be followed by a session where the youth and teachers can ask questions about trees and planting them.

*One tree will be provided to each school who wishes to plant the tree as a class.

Activity: After the video lesson about trees and how to properly plant them, the class will go outside to plant a tree. A one-gallon bur oak tree that is 3-4 feet tall will be provided to each school to plant as a class. These will be provided from Rosebud Nursery and they will have been started in a root-maker pot, which helps to provide better roots for new trees. The plant will be small so the hole should be dug by hand. The hole can be dug ahead of time to save time in class, if desired, just be sure to make the hole only as deep and twice as wide as the root ball.

Materials Needed: Shovels, the provided tree, mulch, rakes, gardening gloves if desired, staking equipment if necessary.

How Storms Form + Kit: What is a cold front, and what kind of weather does a cold front produce? Across many parts of the country, a cold front often comes before precipitation (rain or snow), although a cold front can move though without precipitation. Cold fronts are marked by a shift in wind. A front is a boundary between two air masses and occurs when one air mass moves into the area of another air mass. The difference between the air masses is their temperatures, which creates a change in air density. A cold front is a large boundary of air — generally extending from north to south when fully developed in the Midwest — with colder air behind the front and warmer air ahead of the front. This front, usually moving eastward in the Midwest, can trigger clouds to form, resulting in precipitation. In this activity, you will simulate your own cold front to understand how they work in nature.

A kit of supplies will be provided to classrooms that register for this session.

Topography + Kit:  Nebraska’s topography is as varied and diverse as the food products that are produced here. Find out for yourself as you learn about topographic maps and how that demonstrates the elevation change from west to east across the state.

Nebraska’s dramatic elevation change from west to east is one reason our agriculture is so diverse. For every 25 miles one goes from west to east in Nebraska, average annual precipitation increases by about one inch. There is no “one” Nebraska—a number of factors make different areas of the state unique in terms of climate, environment, agriculture, and precipitation.

In this lesson youth will make their own topographical map of Nebraska that they can take home with them.

Virtual Field Trips

Wind Energy: Explore a wind turbine inside and out and learn about the wind energy industry.

Tree Farm: Go behind the scenes at a commercial tree farm and learn the process of nurturing and selling trees.

An Eye in the Sky: Learn about drones and other technology used in agriculture.

Seafood From Nebraska?: Explore Rock Creek Aquaculture and how this family-owned Nebraska company grows shrimp so far from the ocean.