Skip to main content

CNN Student News Learning Activity: Earth Day and Environmental Law

Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

(CNN Student News) -- Students will learn about U.S. environmental legislation


Inform students that the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, the same year that the Environmental Protection Agency was established. Point out that the EPA enforces federal environmental policies, many of which were enacted by Congress in the decade after the EPA was created. Ask students: Why do you think that the U.S. government has a federal agency charged with protecting the environment?

Working in groups or independently, have students select one environmental law each from the following list:

  1. Clean Air Act (1970)
  2. Water Pollution and Control Act Amendments (1970, 1972, 1977)
  3. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (1976)
  4. Toxic Substances Control Act (1976)
  5. Occupational Safety and Health Act (1970)
  6. Endangered Species Act (1973)
  7. Safe Drinking Water Act (1974)
  8. Federal Land Policy and Management Act (1976)
  9. Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (1977)
  10. National Environmental Policy Act (1969)

Direct students to online resources to learn more about their pieces of legislation. Students' research should focus on the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the law?
  2. What related legislation was in place before the law's passage?
  3. What circumstances led to the law's ratification?
  4. Who supported the law? What was their rationale for proposing it?
  5. Who opposed the law? What was their rationale for doing so?
  6. What has been the impact of the law on the American environment?
  7. What might have been the effect if Congress never passed the law?

Challenge students to go back in time to when their laws were proposed, and use their research to write a letter to their congressional representative either supporting or opposing the "new" law. After students have shared their letters, hold a class discussion based on this question: Is the United States better or worse as a result of each of these laws?

Correlated Standards


Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop understanding of

*Personal health

*Populations, resources, and environments

*Natural hazards

*Risks and benefits

*Science and technology in society

Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of

*Personal and community health

*Population growth

*Natural resources

*Environmental quality

*Natural and human-induced hazards

*Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges

The National Science Education Standards ( are published by the National Academies Press (


9-12 Content Standards

III. How Does The Government Established By The Constitution Embody The Purposes, Values, And Principles Of American Democracy?

1. Distributing governmental power and preventing its abuse
3. The institutions of the national government
4. Major responsibilities of the national government in domestic and foreign policy
8. Major responsibilities of state and local governments
9. The place of law in American society
11. The public agenda
12. Public opinion and behavior of the electorate
15. Associations and groups
16. Forming and carrying out public policy


The National Standards for Civics and Government ( are published by the Center for Civic Education (

Earth Day, ecology, environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Superfund site, DDT E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print