Earth Day is a celebration and more than 1 billion people world-wide celebrate it each year. But it is more than that too. It is also a call to action. To quote, it is a “reminder of the importance of environmental conservation and sustainability, encouraging us to come together and take action for a healthier planet and brighter future.” So, we came together on April 22, but we need to take action all year long.

As much as celebrating is important, sustainable action is at the core of Earth Day. It is an act of recommitting ourselves to the task of cleaning up our environment and practicing stewardship. This goes beyond a one-day celebration. It means 364 more days of action also.

Did you know? Earth Day was almost called “Environmental Teach-In Day.” Clearly, not as catchy, but it does give us insight into what continues to be a necessary part of Earth Day overall—Education.

It is difficult to be good stewards of our home planet without knowing what actions to take. This is especially true for young people, who deeply want to know and take action on climate change and the environment. There is a lot of talk about GenZ these days. It’s difficult to pick up an article that does not shine a light on this next generation to be coming of age on this planet. They are known as the “sustainability generation” and according to PEW Research, climate change is one of their top concerns. But, no one takes action in a vacuum. Education is key to unlocking the power of sustainable action, for the next generation and all the other generations too.

When people know where their water comes from, for instance, they are more likely to conserve it, protect it, and use it sustainably. Makes sense, right? If people know the life-cycle of plastics and how it can affect their everyday lives, they are more likely to use less plastic. If they are shown ways to live with less plastic, and are inspired to change their behaviors around plastic, less single-use plastic will be used. Again, education matters.

Behavior change is a call to action, but one that must not happen only once but needs to happen over and over again. Behavior change is sustained action over time. That call to action needs to happen on more than one level. It’s why memorable and meaningful education is important.

How do you do that?


The effectiveness of NTC’s climate mitigation and environmental stewardship programming, which uses theatre and storytelling as teaching tools, plays out in multiple studies on the human brain, especially when it comes to retention.

In education, retention is important. Some would say even more important than comprehension. But since it is difficult to remember something that you cannot comprehend, there is, of course, a link between the two, making them two sides of the same coin, so to speak. Students need to comprehend the content and also retain that comprehension to build knowledge and usable skills. In other words, how content is presented is vital. It needs to be both understandable and memorable.

This is where the power of story comes in.

A bulleted list of facts or interest points, whether told to us visually, orally, or both, activate the language processing parts of our brain. The Wernicke’s area of our brain controls our ability to understand the meaning of words and the Broca’s area, along with the motor cortex, is the part of the brain that controls our ability to speak words. Together, it is how we process language and when listening to a lecture, this is what is activated so we can decode words into meaning.

Brain studies over the last twenty years, have shown that story not only activates these language process areas, but it also has the ability to light up a bunch of other areas too. This ability is tied to how we process emotion, which is infinitely more interesting and dynamic. As humans, we experience story not as something we are told, but as something we experience, which we are much more likely to remember.

If a story hits on how something tastes or feels or smells, the sensory cortex is activated. It’s one of the reasons why storytellers and fiction authors are told to incorporate the five senses. It’s how authors transport their audience into the story. Stories have the power to activate the motor cortex in much the same way.

But it doesn’t stop there.

This fired up brain is further activated through dopamine, which is triggered by the feelings of anticipation to discover the story’s resolution. This helps bind the experience into the realm of how it makes us feel, which binds it further into our memory and becomes something we retain longer.

For live theatre, this experience is further reinforced because of social norming, which basically means we remember it more because we experience it with others. And for the most part, as social creatures, humans will remember shared experiences longer than those we experience alone.

The appeal of a story to fire up multiple-parts of our human brains and bind it together with emotion makes embedding facts and figures into story an effective way to engage students and make learning memorable and meaningful. It makes a longer lasting impression. It is why story-based learning, especially when trying to instill behavior change, is such a highly effective tool. And one NTC has used for over 45 years.

When the audience of school-age children watch a performance about water conservation or energy efficiency or waste reduction, they are not only excited and engaged because they are learning how to be good environmental stewards. They are engaged by the characters, plot, humor, costumes, props, and dialogue that is woven into the story that is unfolding in front of them. But, funny enough, they also learn how to conserve energy or prevent water pollution or adopt zero waste habits. They also remember those things longer than if they were just told those same things in a lecture. They get content in a way that is both understandable and retainable.

Inspiring young people to adopt sustainable habits through our education outreach programming is a part of NTC’s story. We celebrate it on Earth Day, but our work is designed to inspire sustainable action no matter what day it is. As climate mitigation and environmental stewardship practices continue to be important for the sustainability of life on our planet, we are here to educate our clients communities in answering Earth Day’s call to action every day of the year.