Be the Change

Use this lesson as an introduction to Challenge 5: World and to show students the power of youth activism in the Lexus Environmental Challenge.


Goals: Students will use research to illustrate how one person's action can make a difference in a local community and in the world.

Time Required: 40 minutes, plus research and presentation time

Materials: "Be the Change" student reproducible, supplemental information about activism (below)

Be the Change (PDF)

Before Class Begins

Before students arrive, review the supplemental information about activism (below) including the facts, ideas, and a real-world example of the impact of activism.

Background Discussion

1. Write the following quote on the board, "Be the change you wish to see in the world –Gandhi." Ask students to take five quiet minutes to write down any thoughts, questions, or ideas that this quote generates.
2. Ask: Using a show of hands, how many of you would like to change something for the good of humankind? Do you think that it's possible for one person to change the course of history? Engage students in a discussion about the rewards and challenges of activism.
3. Ask: Which do you think is more effective in generating change: small, local actions or complex, global actions? (Both are equally important.) Discuss the power of local grassroots groups, federal programs, and not-for-profit organizations, including:
a. Environmental Protection Agency (federal program)
b. National Resources Defense Council (national nonprofit)
c. Climate Crisis (national nonprofit)
d. Grassroots Environmental Effectiveness Network (regional, grassroots organization)
e. Hoosier Environmental Council (state program)
f. Earth First! (international nonprofit)
4. Discuss people in your community who have made a difference (e.g., donating to a local museum or library, protecting a local landmark, writing an investigative newspaper story, revitalizing an older part of town, creating a new recycling area). Encourage students to share personal reflections and describe how local activism makes them feel about their town.
5. Ask: Do the actions of any of our local citizens inspire you to make a difference in the world at large? Discuss how your local changes could be expanded to a regional, state, national, or global level (e.g., the team that revitalized the town center could travel to other places in the state, sharing its knowledge and helping other towns make similar plans).
6. Encourage students to share their dreams for improving your town or city. Brainstorm ideas for how you might accomplish several of them. Answer any outstanding questions using the real-life activism example, facts about activism, and ideas for getting involved in the supplemental materials below.

Using the Student Reproducible

1. Explain that students will be using research to decide what they think the answers are to the following questions:
Can a single person change the course of human events?
• Is it possible to reverse the current environmental trends?

Students will share their fact-based conclusions during an oral presentation.
2. Distribute the "Be the Change" student reproducible to each student. Read the introduction together and provide the following example to clarify the outlining tool, if necessary: Environmental Trend: global warming; Changes needed: reduce C02 emissions from autos, power plants, and individuals; Example of success: recent consumer demand for new hybrid gas-electric vehicles.
3. Provide class time for students to research their topics and create an oral presentation.
4. After the presentations, discuss students' final thoughts about the following questions:
How can a single person change the course of human events?
• How is it possible to reverse the current environmental trends?

Special Project (optional)

Challenge students to make a difference in the world around them! Help student teams create and implement an Action Plan for a chance to win more than one million dollars in scholarships and grants!

Here's how it works:

• Help student teams choose one of the following environmental subjects to research: land, water, air, or climate. Instruct them to go to and select one of the topics provided for each environmental subject (e.g., C02 emissions, endangered habitats, recycling).
• Research: Provide class time for each team to research its topic.
• Develop a plan: Instruct each team to create an original plan describing what it wants to do to help protect our natural resources. Each team should go to and complete the online Action Plan to describe its incredible idea!
• Take action: Guide each team as it implements its Action Plan. Remind students to keep track of any successes and challenges throughout the process.
• Submit your entry: Enter online at for a chance to win! Visit for complete entry details and the official rules.




What is activism?

o Activism is taking a deliberate action designed to generate change. This change can be social, political, or environmental.


Where can I go to see examples of national activist groups?
Here are a few examples of activist groups, most have local chapters:

o Environmental groups:,
o Animal rights groups:,
o Children's rights groups:,
o Human rights groups:,
o Teen activist groups:,


Why should we participate in local activism?
o Local activism can also be called grassroots activism. Grassroots activism supplies the forum for ordinary people to express their needs and ideas and develop local plans to make their world better.



Reinforce the power of one person's voice by sharing how Rachel Carson exposed the dangers of the pesticide DDT to the world.

• Rachel Carson (1907–1964) grew up in a small town in rural Pennsylvania.
• As a child, she was fascinated by the natural world and attended Pennsylvania College for Women and Johns Hopkins University as a biology student.
• In 1936, Carson became a junior aquatic biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and published her first book in 1941.
• During her work at the Bureau of Fisheries, Carson became concerned about the pesticide DDT. Introduced in 1945, this pesticide was used by farmers to increase crop production. However, when it seeped into rivers and lakes, it poisoned the marine life.
• Carson conducted extensive research to confirm her belief that DDT was a danger to the environment and published Silent Spring, a book describing her findings in 1962.
• Carson was attacked personally and professionally for exposing the dangers of DDT, but the U.S. government launched an investigation into the use of the pesticide. As a result of Silent Spring and the subsequent investigation, DDT was banned.
• Carson is credited with bringing worldwide attention to the environmental movement, which led to greater research in air pollution, oil spills, and other environmental concerns.


Privacy Policy




Here's something interesting from