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Organize a Community Cleanup Day

Students will select a local waterway or area park and participate in a community cleanup day.

PROCESS:

  1. Poll the class to see how many students have seen litter on the ground outside your school. Brainstorm a list of the types of litter they've seen, such as soda cans, candy bar wrappers, plastic bottles, etc. 
  2. If weather permits, take the class outside. Divide the class into pairs. Instruct partners to tally the number of items they find for each type of litter. If they see an item that the class didn't identify, have them add that item to the list and keep a tally for it, too. Rejoin in the classroom and compare results. 
  3. As a class, discuss how litter affects your local environment. Then explore area maps to see how litter from your local area gets into waterways and can eventually make it all the way to the ocean. Guide students to recognize that a plastic bottle they drop outside the school can someday harm a coral reef. 
  4. Discuss with students different ways they can protect their local environment. Then select a local waterway or area park and organize a community cleanup day for your class, grade or school. If possible, enlist the help of parents, older siblings and other community members.

ASSESSMENT: 

After the community cleanup day is over, hold a class discussion to recap what happened. Encourage students to share their ideas for keeping the local environment cleaner in the future.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON: 

Grades 3-4:
Organize the event yourself. Require each student to participate. After the event, encourage students to identify three things they can do to reduce the amount of litter in their local environment.
Grades 5-6:
Invite students to help you organize the event. Require each student to participate. After the event, encourage students to identify five things they can do to reduce the amount of litter in their local environment.
Grades 7-8:
Once you have selected a site, divide the class into small groups. Assign each group a specific part of the project. Supervise as groups plan the step-by-step process for completing their tasks. You may wish to work with other classes or expand this into an all-school project. After students complete the project, encourage them to write an evaluation outlining what they did, how it helped the environment and what actions they can take in the future to keep the area clean. 
Grades 9-10:
Once you have selected a site, encourage students to select a team of supervisors. Each supervisor will oversee a specific area of the project. All other students will work in small groups to complete specific tasks. Encourage teams to outline the step-by-step process for completing their tasks so the overall project flows as seamlessly as possible. You may wish to work with other classes or expand this into an all-school project. Encourage students to enlist the help of parents, siblings and other community members as well. After students complete the project, encourage them to write an evaluation outlining what they did, how it helped the environment and what actions they can take in the future to keep the area clean.