To help spread the word about keeping our planet green this Earth Day, Google has joined forces with Scholastic – the folks who brought us Clifford the Big Red Dog – to distribute lesson plans (and a contest) to middle-schoolers across the U.S.

Using Google Earth, teachers can fly their students around the world to talk to them about issues like climate change and how it has affected places like Glacier National Park, the Chesapeake Bay and Los Angeles. And they can introduce students to community initiatives across the country where volunteers are cleaning up their cities, planting trees and beautifying. Using Google Earth, teachers can show their students placemarks of the towns where outreach projects are taking place and students can get involved in cleaning up their own environment.

As for the contest, students write their own environmental stories by researching a topic of interest and illustrating it with Google Earth images. Following detailed instructions, they can create their own Keyhole Markup Language (KML) files which they will send to us for review. The top three environmental story creators will win prizes for themselves, their class and their teachers, including a week at Earth Camp, technology grants and Lenovo laptops for the classrooms.

This Earth Day project goes to 30,000 middle school teachers across the country in poster form (with placemarks on the front and lesson plan suggestions on the back), and it’s also being emailed to 100,000 more teachers. There’s a Scholastic website for teachers and a special Google Earth page too.