Earth Day 2021

Logo Text: Online A week-long celebration Earth Day Monday, April 19, 2021 through Friday, April 23, 2021

The Harvard Museum of Natural History welcomes you to celebrate Earth Day by engaging in sustainability-themed virtual events and activities for all ages. As Spring brings new growth and revitalization, we invite you to renew your mind, body and spirit through explorations of the natural world.


Students and Sustainability

Virtual Tour

Explore the Outdoors!


Live Events


Monday, April 19th, 3:30 – 4:00 pm
Join Harvard Museums of Science & Culture Volunteer Coordinator Carol Carlson for Earth Week Story Time with a live reading of two children’s picture books that explore how living things are naturally connected to each other.
Tuesday, April 20th, 3:00 – 3:45 pm
Special Earth Week edition of our popular family program, featuring special guest Harvard graduate student Arianna Lord.
Wednesday, April 21st, 4:00 – 4:45 pm
Live screening of the short video “Movement Without Muscles: The Sensitive Fern” and Q&A with creators, Harvard Doctoral Candidates Ben Goulet-Scott and Jacob Suissa.
Thursday, April 22nd, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Jerry Glover will discuss innovations to improve current agricultural practices and opportunities to change food production models.
Friday, April 23rd, 4:00 - 5:00 pm
An informal roundtable featuring four Harvard Divinity School graduate students coming together to speak about the intersection of ecology and spiritual practice.

Students and Sustainability

The Council of Student Sustainability Leaders (CSSL) is a partnership between the Harvard Office for Sustainability and Harvard's undergraduate and graduate student community. Hear from student members of the CSSL about what inspires them to take action for a more sustainable future.

Student Stories

Samantha Tracy, Harvard T.H. Chan School Public Health, ‘21

Charles Hua, '22, Harvard College

David Saul Acosta, Division of Continuing Education, ‘21

Seo Hyun Yoo, '23, Harvard College

Karina Gaft Azcue, '21, Division of Continuing Education

Boyd Carson, '21, Division of Continuing Education

A World of Connections

Embark on a new virtual journey through the Harvard Museum of Natural History to uncover the enduring connections that bind us to one another, to all life on this planet, and beyond!

Explore the Outdoors!

Learn more about the natural history and ecology of New England's forests from our museum exhibition, explore the outdoors, and experiment with our activities.

New England Forests

New England Forests Exhibit

A wolf and moose in a gallery.

New England Forests in the Zofnass Family Gallery is a multi-media exhibition that explores the natural history and ecology of our regional forests, their responses to human activity, and their environmental significance.

Movement Without Muscles: The Sensitive Fern

The Sensitive Fern, Onoclea sensibilis, is a native New England plant with an unusual method of spore dispersal. Learn more about what makes this plant unique and the anatomical mechanisms that make this dispersal possible. With Harvard Doctoral Candidates Ben Goulet-Scott and Jacob Suissa of Let’s Botanize!


New England Forests Coloring Book

Outdoor Opportunities in your Region

Discover the outdoors in your local area with these opportunities to connect with nature and other people interested in exploring natural habitats and biodiversity.

City Nature Challenge 

Outdoor Afro


Hammered Leaf Prints

The bright colors we see in leaves and flowers come mainly from pigments such as chlorophyll and anthocyanins. Chlorophyll is what makes leaves green and anthocyanins give plants their red, pink, purple, and blue hues. But these pigments do more than just make the plants look pretty. Chlorophyll plays an important role in photosynthesis, allowing plants to absorb energy from sunlight. The bright colors of flowers attract birds, bees, and other insects who carry pollen from flower to flower and help the plant reproduce.


Try making prints with the pigments found in flowers and leaves! Leaves and flowers grow back year after year, so picking a few doesn’t hurt the plant, just be sure not to take more than you will use!



  • Fresh leaves and flowers with bright colors; pick flowers that are thin and flat

  • White construction or watercolor paper

  • Paper towels

  • Large cutting board

  • Hammer



  • Place a piece of construction or watercolor paper on your cutting board.

  • Arrange your leaves and flowers flat on the piece of paper.

  • Place 2–3 layers of paper towel over your arrangement.

  • Hammer all over! Be patient; this may take some time. Try to hit every part of the leaves and flowers under the paper towel. The pressure of the hammer will transfer the pigments from the leaves and flowers to the paper. You might start to see some color coming through the paper towel.  

  • Remove the paper towel. Carefully peel off any leaves or flowers stuck to the construction or watercolor paper.

  • Look at your prints! What colors do you see? Which flowers or leaves left prints? Which didn’t? Experiment with different flowers or leaves to see what works best!

Worms at Work

Dig in the ground in a yard, park, or garden and you’ll probably run into some earthworms! These amazing animals are an important part of many ecosystems. Earthworms eat dead plants, such as decaying leaves. Like humans, they digest what they eat and then poop. Worm poop is full of nutrients that plants need to grow! Earthworms also help plants by tunneling through the dirt which mixes and aerates the soil.


Watch worms at work by making a simple wormery.


  • Fill a small clear glass or plastic jar with alternating layers of light and dark damp soil or sand.

  • Add some worms. Look in flower beds, leaf piles, or under rocks. You may have to dig down a few inches into the ground to find them.

  • Place a few dead leaves on the top layer of soil as food for your worms.

  • Cover your jar with a dark cloth or piece of paper. Worms don’t like bright light!

  • Keep your wormery moist and dark.

  • Observe your wormery! Look for trails of one color of soil going through the other color. It may take a few days before you can see tunnels, particularly if you used a larger jar.

Experiment with Shells!

Four shells of varying heights and colors.

It’s fun to collect shells at the beach. You might find shells of many shapes and sizes, from small, curled marine snail shells to large, flat clam shells, washed by the waves onto the shore. We usually find these shells empty, after the animal that once lived inside has died. You may wonder where these shells come from. Seashells are actually the skeletons of marine mollusks like snails, clams, scallops, and mussels. Unlike humans, mollusks do not have a skeleton inside of them. Instead, many form exoskeletons, hard coverings that surround their bodies. Just like our bones form and get bigger as we grow, the shells of mollusks are made by the animal’s body. The clam, scallop, mussel, and snail shells we find on the beach are made of calcium carbonate, a compound that is sensitive to acid. Try this experiment to see how shells react to acid.


  • Seashell
  • Vinegar
  • Clear drinking glass or jar


  • Place the seashell in the glass or jar
  • Pour in enough vinegar to cover the shell by about 2 inches
  • Look closely at the shell. Can you see tiny bubbles rising off of the shell and through the vinegar? The vinegar is reacting with the shell and releasing bubbles of carbon dioxide.
  • Change the vinegar every day and watch what happens to the shell over time!

Thinking Deeper:

While the ocean is much less acidic than vinegar, the acidity of the ocean is increasing. Carbon dioxide from the air dissolves into the ocean, making it more acidic. The more carbon dioxide in the air, from car emissions, changing land uses, and other human activities, the more dissolves into the ocean and the more acidic the ocean becomes. What do you think will happen to the shells of mollusks if the ocean becomes more acidic? What do you think we should do about it? To learn more about how climate change is affecting the oceans and what we can do about it, check out these resources from New England Aquarium.

Learning From Trees


Scientists and archaeologists can use tree rings to inform them about the climate of the past. In temperate climates like the Northeast, trees add a ring of growth to their trunk every year, but the rings vary in width. Under ideal conditions, trees grow quickly, leaving wide annual rings behind. During droughts, unseasonable cold, and other conditions, growth slows, leaving behind narrow rings. We can use a tool, like the tree-ring measuring machine pictured above, to carefully measure how thick or thin the lines are. Trees can grow for hundreds or even thousands of years. We can look at all those years of growth to help us understand what the climate was like while the tree was growing. We don’t need to cut down a tree to see its rings. Scientists can use a special drill that pulls out a long, skinny “core” from the tree’s trunk, about the width of a drinking straw, that shows the rings. Archaeologists look at wood that people have used, perhaps as a roof beam, a frame for a painting, or a table. They then match the pattern of those rings to the pattern of rings from other trees to figure out the year the sample is from.






Look for tree rings around you!

  • Find a piece of wood where you can see tree rings. You can look at stumps, cut firewood, or the ends of pieces of cut lumber. It’s fine if you can only see part of the rings.
  • Count the rings. This will tell you how old the tree was when it was cut down.
  • Look for a thick ring. This shows a year when the tree grew a lot.
  • Look for a thin ring. This shows a year when the tree grew a little.
  • Do you see any other marks on the wood? What do you think they are from?

Social Media

Let’s Botanize!

HMSC Explorer’s Club