Our Planet, Our Responsibility

Use this lesson to discuss current issues facing the planet and introduce the concept of environmental stewardship.

Objective: Students will conduct research to analyze an environmental problem impacting their community, citing evidence to support their findings.

Time Required: 40 minutes, plus research and presentation time

Materials: Analyze the Issue Student Worksheet, pen or pencil, access to Internet

Warm-up Discussion: The Big Issues
1. Have students brainstorm some of the major environmental issues affecting the planet. Write down students’ ideas on your whiteboard or chalkboard. Then have the class vote on what they consider to be the top five "big issues." Engage in a discussion as to why they think these problems are the most pressing.

2. Choose one item from your class’s top-five list. Ask students to think critically about this issue by asking:

  • What is the cause of the problem?
  • Are people responsible for or contributing to this problem? How?
  • What are the impacts that result from this environmental problem? How do they happen?
  • What solutions could help fix the problem?
  • What don’t we know about this problem?
  • Are you personally curious about anything related to this issue?

Main Lesson: Environmental Stewardship
1. Help students make a connection between human actions and their effects on the environment. People can have a negative influence—or a positive one—on the world around us. Explain that students can help solve issues facing the planet by practicing environmental stewardship—the responsible use and protection of the natural world. Ask students: What are some ways people could put environmental stewardship into action in their homes? Schools? Community?

2. Taking on the task of caring for the planet might seem daunting. But when many people make small changes in their own lives to help the environment, it can have a big impact on everyone. Share the following examples with your class to illustrate how environmental stewardship can work on a large scale.

  • By replacing regular light bulbs with more energy-efficient compact fluorescent ones, Americans would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year.
  • Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups and plastic cutlery each year to circle Earth 300 times. If people were to stop using these disposable items, it would reduce a huge amount of waste clogging landfills.

3. Introduce students to some people who have made environmental stewardship their life’s mission. Have students access the links individually or in small groups to learn how each of the following environmentalists has worked to protect the planet.

4. Engage students in a classroom discussion about the environmentalists they read about by asking:

  • What led Maathai, Goodall, and Earle to choose a particular environmental issue to focus on?
  • How did they get others involved?
  • Describe Goodall’s advice to young people in your own words.

Wrap-up Activity: Local Impacts
1. Many environmental stewards take on problems that have a direct impact on people, places, and wildlife close to their hearts. They’re passionate about these issues, and that passion helps inspire others. Have students think about whether there are any environmental issues they find important. Why does this issue resonate with you?

2. Explain that students will learn about an environmental issue affecting their community. They’ll search for news articles on the Internet that highlight this problem, and then conduct further research to find out more information.

3. Distribute copies of the Analyze the Issue Student Worksheet to each student. Have students read the worksheet introduction individually. Then ask them to complete the steps to analyze their chosen issue and find out whether environmental stewardship has helped solve the problem. When done, students will write an informative paragraph summarizing their research.

Take It Further (optional)
This lesson will inspire students to make a difference in the world around them. Encourage them to take the next step by entering the Lexus Eco Challenge! They’ll create and implement a plan to address a specific challenge facing the environment. If that isn’t motivation enough, a total of $500,000 in scholarships and grants is awarded to eligible teachers, students, and schools each year!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Register the Team: The Teacher Advisor must go to lexus.scholastic.com and click “Enter Now” to register each team of 5–10 students.
  2. Choose a Challenge: Each student team and its Teacher Advisor should go to lexus.scholastic.com and choose a Challenge to enter: Land & Water, Air & Climate, or both! Then select one of the topics provided to address.
  3. Research the Topic: Provide class time for each team to research its topic.
  4. Develop an Action Plan: Instruct each team to create an original Action Plan describing how the students can help solve their selected environmental issue.
  5. Put the Ideas Into Action: Teachers will guide teams to implement their Action Plans in their community. Remind students to keep track of the process, including successes and challenges.
  6. Submit the Entry: Teacher Advisors must submit a team’s entry by having students create a PowerPoint presentation using the Action Plan template found online and then emailing the entry to ecochallenge@scholastic.com! Each Teacher Advisor must include his or her name, the team name, and the school name in the subject line of the email with the entry submission. Only Teacher Advisors may submit Action Plans. Visit the site for complete entry details and Official Rules.


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