Community Perspectives of Site Cleanup

The learners explore the building grounds or neighborhood, looking for places that need extra attention and stewardship. When they find a spot to care for, they must find out who the stakeholders are and interview them. Listening to different perspectives before making a plan of action shows respect and inclusiveness.

PrintThree 45-Minute Sessions, plus time for a project

The learners will...

  • take inventory of what is on the school or park grounds, including how space is used, types of plants and trees - helpful and destructive, and areas that need cleanup.
  • identify issues in the natural spaces and brainstorm what young people can do.
  • listen to and respect other points of view before taking action to make a space better. 

copies of handout: Community Perspectives of Site Cleanup

  1. Anticipatory Set

    Ask whether the youth have ever noticed a common area where trash accumulates. Discuss what it looks like, how it gets that way, and how they feel about it. Discuss briefly whose responsibility it is to clean that up. Discuss what other things related to the environment are the duty of each person as a responsible citizen.

    Define environmental stewardship as the responsible use and protection of the natural world with ongoing practices.

  2. Distribute copies of the handout "Community Perspectives of Site Cleanup." Cut one copy of the handout apart into the different roles. While they silently read the summary and scan over the list of perspectives, pass out a role to each pair or small group. This is the role they will read carefully and take on as their own perspective.

  3. The learners talk within their small group about their assigned role and confirm they understand their perspective. Assure them that you know it is not likely their perspective, but they must role-play it like it is their own point of view. 

  4. Present the summary of the problem with the littered sports field. Tell the groups they must take turns talking about it from their assigned point of view. They must listen with respect, and respond and interact in a way that values others. Before they start the discussion, give them some language for kind disagreement: I hear you. This is what I think. Have you considered...? I see it differently. 

    Tell them that when we volunteer or take action for the common good, we have to be aware that there are different points of view and other people who can help. This discussion will give them tools for when they take action together.

  5. Have a group discussion about the littered sports field and come to a consensus about the best way to take care of the problem, determining who should do what. 

    Reflection question: How do we build peaceful and inclusive communities with our words and actions for the common good? 

    Optional: Learn about the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, and #16 in particular: Build peaceful and sustainable societies. 

  6. Session Two

    Together or separately, walk around the neighborhood and region around the school, observing plants, use of space, and ways to make the shared space better. Take notes about the assets and liabilities around them. 

  7. Discuss some things they observed and what issues they saw that could be improved. Write their ideas on large sticky notes. Pose this question for think, pair, and share: Is it our responsibility or just nice to take care of nature?

  8. Review all the ideas and ask the learners to think about which one they care most about. It might be a polluted or neglected area or a potential new use for an area. Work together to put their ideas in order (move the sticky notes) from what they'd like to address most to least. Discuss the possibilities and barriers of each. 

    Look at their top idea, maybe it is to plant flowers in a messy area of the school grounds, for example. Discuss WHO else they should talk to about taking action. Tell them that when we volunteer or take action for the common good, we have to be aware that there are different points of view and other people who can help.

  9. Brainstorm a list of people and what they need to ask. This may include local organizations, school administration, parents, other students, community leaders, neighbors, other people at the school or in the community. Talk about how they gather information from others. It could be a phone call or letter, an interview, a survey, or a request for supplies. 

    Facilitate gathering feedback from as many different perspectives as possible. They may ask for ideas at home too of who could help.

  10. Session Three (after perspectives of different people are gathered)

    Discuss what they learned from others. Compare the different points of view. 

    Questions for Reflection: Does everyone we talked to agree that the improvement should be made? What did people offer as ideas? What different perspectives are there? What are some problems that need to be solved and in what order? Are some perspectives better or more important than others? How do we treat everyone's point of view with respect? 

  11. Map out a project to take action to improve something in the environment. Work together to research and plan all the steps, then have each learner take responsibility for their specific actions in their environmental stewardship project.

    Optional: Their project may include making art from something in nature or to solve an environmental issue. 

  12. Take action to improve a shared environmental issue. As the group takes action, they reflect on how it is going, who is doing what, and what went well.