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Taking the Kids: Celebrating Earth Day

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

How will you celebrate this year? April 22 is Earth Day -- the time to celebrate our beautiful planet, and lend a hand to keep it that way. Especially if you are traveling, there is no better time to teach the kids an environmental lesson while having fun.

Maybe join a community cleanup or take the kids to the zoo or aquarium and learn about why it is so important to protect the environment. Maybe try to travel "greener" (more about that later in this column).

Volunteers in 13 U.S. cities will come together with grassroots organizations for Earth Day 2019 to clean up green spaces, urban landscapes and waterways, everywhere from Washington, D.C., New York to Chicago, Denver and Seattle.

More than 1 billion people will participate globally in Earth Day activities that will focus on environmental education and activism. The largest civic observance in the world, Earth Day, first celebrated on April 22, 1970, is credited with having launched the modern environmental movement, which culminated in the passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws.

When you are traveling, a zoo or aquarium is a terrific place to learn about the animals that live in that region and the challenges they face. At the Kimball Natural History Museum in San Francisco, part of the California Academy of Sciences,its interactive exhibit lets you explore Northern California's giant natural phenomena, including its ancient redwoods and marine mammals.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardensin Palm Desert, California, focuses on conserving and interpreting the desert and all of its plant and animal life. Take a walk on one of the desert hiking trails; ride a camel and visit the Tennity Wildlife Hospital & Conservation Center where you might even be able to view a medical exam or procedure.


The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon, is the place to learn more about the creatures that live just off the Oregon coast -- sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, seabirds and the giant pacific octopus among them (don't touch any seal pups you may encounter on the beach). You can even see where two sea turtles -- they are a threatened species -- live now. After they were stranded on Pacific Northwest beaches, they were rehabilitated and returned to the ocean outfitted with satellite transmitters.

Take the time when you visit to see how zoos and aquariums are contributing to conservation efforts around the world and how you can help.

The special exhibit Underwater Beauty at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium features over 1,000 animals representing 100 species. It explores the diverse and astonishing beauty of the aquatic world while motivating visitors to protect our oceans, lakes and rivers by bringing them closer to the stunning and surprising spectrum of shapes, sizes, movement, patterns and colors that exist within the aquatic animal world to inspire the notion of "beauty worth saving."

The Shedd is encouraging visitors to #SheddtheStraw by taking the pledge to pass on single-use plastic straws that are nearly impossible to recycle, resulting in a big problem for oceans, lakes and rivers.


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