Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Whose Responsibility Is It? (9th Grade)
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework

Focus Question(s):

What is each person's responsibility for environmental stewardship?

NOTE: Prior to this lesson, use the Blue Sky Activity in which students envision a better world.  If you already have a Blue Sky display, revisit it before beginning this lesson.


The learners will explore the four economic sectors and the responsibility to care for the environment. They will determine how they are responsible for environmental stewardship and create a plan for what they can do to help.


One Forty-Five to Fifty-Minute Class Period


The learner will:

  • identify the four economic sectors.
  • understand the role each of these sectors play in caring for the environment.
  • define environmental stewardship.
  • develop and implement a personal plan of action to address an environmental issue.


  • Student copies of Attachment One: Responsibility Sheet
  • Student copies of Attachment Two: Game Pieces
  • Scissors, and Tape
  • Student copies of Attachment Three: An Action Plan
Handout 1
Environmental Responsibility of the Four Sectors
Handout 2
Environmental Problems
Handout 3
Action Plan

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

Place the following four words on the display board as column headings and ask the learners, “If someone, who did not fully understand the English language, were to ask you what these terms mean, what words or phrases would you use to describe them? “Government, For-Profit /Business, Non-Profit, Household”


(n) The authoritative administration of public policy and affairs of a nation, state or city; the system or policy by which a political unit is governed; any governed territory, district or area.

For-Profit Business

n) Any profit or non-tax exempt business not associated with any government, government agency, or non-profit enterprise.

Nonprofit Sector

(n) Any not-for-profit or tax-exempt organizations collectively that are specifically not associated with any government, government agency, or commercial enterprise

Household (family)

(n) those people occupying a dwelling together, the people of a house collectively


  • Share with the learners that these are the four economic sectors of our society and that all the services and goods available involve one or more of these sectors.
  • To ensure that the learners understand this concept, ask the following questions: “Which of these four sectors might be considered to be the most responsible for National Security? (Government)  Which of these four sectors might be considered to be the most responsible for producing consumer products? (For Profit/Business)  Which of these four sectors might be considered to be the most responsible for opening and maintaining a local food pantry or shelter? (Non-profit)  Which of these four sectors might be considered to be the most responsible for raising a child? (Household)
  • Once the learners have a general understanding of the four sectors, distribute the Attachment One: Environmental Responsibility of the Four Sectors and review how the sheet is set up in sector columns.
  • Tell the learners that today’s lesson is focusing on environmental stewardship issues.  Define steward and stewardship as:
    • stewardship: The careful supervision of resources (for this lesson, natural resources).
    • steward: A manager of resources; a person responsible for maintaining effective use of resources. 
  • Distribute Attachment Two: Environmental Problems, scissors and a large piece of tape to each student.  Explain to the learners that they are to cut out the problem pieces, read each one and, using their understanding of the four sectors, assign each piece to the one sector that they feel should be held most “responsible “for addressing that problem.
  • Once they have made the decision where to place the “responsibility,” have the learners tape the problem in the appropriate column.
  • When the learners have completed their ‘assigning of responsibility,’ form groups composed of three learners each, and ask them to share their individual decisions concerning the ‘responsibilities’ in their group and then discuss. Give each group an additional copy of Attachments One and Two.  Reach group consensus in the assigning or re-assigning of responsibilities.  Using the new Attachments, have the groups indicate their results from their having reached consensus.
  • Have each group then share their ‘responsibility’ assignments for each sector with the whole class.
  • If possible, reach consensus as a total class, but where consensus might be ‘impossible,’ place the problem under the sector heading that reflects the majority of the groups’ “responsibility assignments.”
  • When completed, ask the following questions: 1) How many of you feel that your individual ‘responsibility form’ closely reflected the conclusions you arrived at in your group? 2) How many of the groups feel that their group ‘responsibility form’ closely reflected what the total class’  ‘responsibility form’ indicates?  3) What did you learn from this exercise? 4) Was it easy to assign responsibility in each case? 5) Would you have assigned some of the responsibilities to more than one sector? 6)  Is there one sector that is most responsible for addressing most of the problems?
  • Now have the learners reflect on how this statement might be true, ”As an individual, I can do something to help in everyone one of these problem areas identified on the Environmental Problem list” (Attachment Two), i.e. pick up trash, vote for government officials that are sensitive to environmental issues, buy cars that get better gas mileage, volunteer in non-profit organizations, advocate my concerns in writing to city officials, not buy products made by businesses that pollute the environment, etc.
  • Share with the learners that as a response to Earth Day, they each will be given an opportunity to identify a problem that pertains to an environmental issue in their community (one that they identified and/or one that identified in the exercise they just completed). They are to develop a personal  “plan of action” (Attachment Three) for how they propose to use Earth Day as a time to address that problem for the common good. If time permits, have the learners share their action plans with the whole class.


  • Involvement in class discussion
  • Involvement in group work
  • Depth and relevance of the learner’s “action plan.”

Learning Link(s): (click to view)

Reflection: (click to view)

Bibliographical References:

Learning to Give Web site. www.learningtogive.org

Lesson Developed By:

Dennis VanHaitsma
Curriculum Consultant
Learning to Give


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Environmental Responsibility of the Four Sectors

Environmental Responsibility of the Four Sectors

 stewardship: The careful supervision of resources (for this lesson, natural resources)

 steward: A manager of resources; a person responsible for maintaining effective use of resources  





















Handout 2Print Handout 2

Environmental Problems


Dead fish are washing on shore leaving the beach smelly and full of flies.  Scientists blame the introduction of foreign species transported in the ballasts of ships.

Trash is found on the sidewalks along the main street in front of stores and other businesses





The smog levels have increased over the years, according to meteorologists, especially in and around the city





Trees along the highway are dying from what many consider to be the results of winter salting of the highway and over- use of pesticides.

The ozone layer is being depleted. Aerosol spray and carbon monoxide are blamed as some of the chief contributors to this problem.

The water in the city park is yellow, leading many people to think that it is unsafe to drink.

Cracks in the walls of a local house of worship are attributed to heavy traffic and noise pollution along the highway.

Beverage containers and fast food styrofoam containers, napkins, etc. are strewn near the City Public Pool entrance.

Old tires and abandoned car parts are found in an alley between a local business establishment and a housing project.

Trash containers are overflowing near the school’s athletic fields.

Many people, who frequent the Soup Kitchen, also wind up sleeping in boxes on the streets.

Many people who choose to smoke do so in designated areas but see no problem with throwing cigarette butts on the ground or out of their car window.

The wetlands are being replaced with developments.  Some feel that there will be little or no green space remaining if nothing is done to stop urban sprawl.

An oil slick has mysteriously appeared in the middle of the shipping lane that brings fuel oil to local businesses.

Newspaper, plastics and other recyclable items are being found in the regular trash containers.  




The world’s oil supply is fast being used up. Many blame vehicles whose gas mileage is very low as one of the main reasons for this shortage. 


Handout 3Print Handout 3

Action Plan

Action Plan



Causes of problem:




Action 1:


Impact sought from action:


Supplies needed for action:


Action 2:


Impact sought from action:


Supplies needed for action:

Philanthropy Framework:

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Whose Responsibility Is It? (9th Grade) Summary


Whose Responsibility Is It? (9th Grade)

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