Reducing Plastic Consumption, Supporting our Environment
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Give examples of needs met by government, business, civil society, and family.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss an issue affecting the common good in the classroom or school and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark E.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark E.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.1 Provide a needed service.

The students take action by determining ways to reduce their own use of plastic bags and by advocating for ways to reduce the use of plastic bags in their own households, the community, state and nation.  To take further action, the students may propose ways to influence government officials to change laws so plastic bags are banned, taxed, or not given out for free.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session, plus time to carry out the service project

The learner will:

  • review the water cycle and understand water as a common resource
  • share information through posters and letters about plastic bags with family, community, and lawmakers.
  • make a personal commitment to reduce consumption of plastic and plastic bags.
  • Internet access to view U.S. Geological Survey Water Cycle Diagram
  • Projection equipment, if available
  1. Anticipatory Set

    Hold up a glass of water. Tell the students that the H2O molecules of water in this glass may have fallen on the heads of dinosaurs, washed the hands of Civil War soldiers, satisfied the thirst of Olympic athletes or flowed down the Amazon River along with the crocodiles. Ask: How can that be? Allow students to conjecture, then remind them of the water cycle: precipitation, infiltration, evaporation, condensation, precipitation. 

  2. Summarize for the students that polluted water affects us all now and in the future because water is a common resource we share with all people and animals. What we do locally ends up in the global water system. Water is never created; it is recycled and shared repeatedly. Keeping water clean is beneficial for the common good. Remind students about their discussion from the previous lesson about who is responsible to keep water clean? Ask: How does this new understanding about water change or confirm your opinion of who is responsible for preventing water pollution or for cleaning up water pollution?

  3. Put five pieces of chart paper around the room. Assign groups of three or four to each paper. Write the following questions at the top of the charts (one question per paper):

    1. What are creative ways to reuse plastic bags?
    2. Where do you get plastic bags/who gives them to you?
    3. Where are some strange places you have seen a plastic bag?
    4. What are some ways that plastic bags harm the environment?
    5. What plastic products can you stop buying or using because you can do without them?
  4. Have students work in groups to brainstorm for two minutes at one chart paper. Have them move to the next chart paper and add to the brainstorming of the previous group. Repeat until all groups have added ideas to all charts. When the groups are back to their original charts, have them star the two or three best ideas from the chart and read them to the whole group. Post the charts for everyone to read .

  5. Through class discussion, come to consensus on what action they will take and guide the students in planning and implementing that advocacy. This might include letters to government officials to change laws, a campaign to promote reusable grocery bags (perhaps distributed by students, with a student-produced brochure on pollution caused by plastic) in collaboration with a local grocery store).

  6. Have students carry out their planned project.

  7. Use the questions in the Reflection section during and after the students service/advocacy project.


  • What can we do today to reduce the problem of plastic bag pollution?
  • Who cares about this issue locally and globally? How might you get others to care about and act on this issue?
  • What impact did our service/advocacy project have? How do we know? Is there more we can do?
  • How did you feel about doing this service/advocacy project?