Community Clean-Up

K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Students learn about the goals of Earth Day and identify areas in town that need clean-up or planting. They plan a day of service.

Teach this one-period lesson plan and follow it with a simple and powerful service project before or on Earth Day. The reflection brings learning and service impact together. 

Photo Credit: Clean Up Day by U.S. Embassy Romania is licensed by CC by 4.0

PrintOne class period, plus time for a project

The students will be able to 

  • describe the history and goals of Earth Day.
  • express their role as stewards of the environment and participants in civil society.
  • determine a specific need for clean-up in the community.
  • plan and carry out a clean-up service project. 
  • copy of the PowerPoint slide show to facilitate this lesson (below)
  • gloves and other tools for community clean-up, determined by project focus

Follow the project with a brief reflection.

1. Discuss the impact of their project as partners, small groups, or whole class.

2. Students write a paragraph reflection connecting their project to the quotes in Part Two above.

3. They compile pictures, data, and narrative from their project into a form to share. Give them a place to share their reflection.


  • How would life be different today if Earth Day hadn't started?
  • Discuss what they’d like to do next to continue taking care of the community environment.
  • TED-Ed Video. "Earth Day Medley." 
  • Facts Scribbler. "What Is Earth Day? Important Facts and History."
  • Earth Day Quizlet. 
  • Earth Day Kahoot.
  • Science World. "Earth Day Articles."
  • Education World. "Science lesson" 



  1. Anticipatory Set: (5 min)

    Before playing this 60-second “Earth Day Medley” from TED-Ed, tell students to watch for the visual messages about the gifts of the earth and our interactions with it. 

    Questions for discussion:

    • What are some attributes of the earth shown symbolically?
    • What do you think is the social action message of this video?
    • Why do you think we have (or need) a day dedicated to stewardship of the earth? – Earth Day on April 22 
  2. Introduce history and goals of Earth Day and introduce community clean-up project. Tell the students that they are going to celebrate Earth Day by taking action locally. 

    Show a 90-second video about the history and goals of Earth Day

  3. Review the issues Earth Day seeks to address (oil spills, pollution, loss of wilderness, etc.), and ask the students which of these issues they care about most.

  4. Building from the video’s list of things people can do (plant trees, recycle, ride bikes), brainstorm and discuss what individuals can do in the local community to take care of the earth.

  5. Show pictures of community areas with trash or overgrown, uncared for areas (parks, drains, streets, rivers, fields) and build students’ level of concern for caring for their own local environment. (You will need to collect these pictures in advance.)  

  6. Understanding our role in civil society: Give students time in small groups to read aloud and discuss the meaning of the following quotes as they relate to participating in a local clean-up project and its impact:

    • “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” Edward Everett Hale
    • "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead
    • "A small act is worth a million thoughts." - Ai Weiwei
    • “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” -- Mahatma Gandhi
  7. Plan a Service Project in which students clean up one or more areas around town, either by planting, picking up trash, or making it more usable by people or wildlife. 

    • Make a group decision about what is needed and how the group can address the need. 
    • Start gathering information and make a step-by-step plan of action. Include getting permission to work in a public or private space, if needed.
  8. Ideas:

    • Students clean up trash in designated areas and put up signs or provide trash cans to maintain the appearance. The clean-up may involve planting native species or removing invasive species.
    • If the area is a hiking trail, students may provide laminated trail maps with interpretations of the natural history and features along the trail.
    • Involve families and other community members in the clean-up or in awareness of how to maintain the beauty of the cleaned area. 

    Have a representative from the town council come and be part of the discussion about the community clean-up project. Discuss how they can be of help to the class and what the students can do to help the community efforts. 

  9. Extensions:

    • Variation for older students: Have students create their own “Animoto” video about Earth Day, using facts, images, and suggestions for things people can do locally for stewardship of the earth. 
    • Independent Activities 
    1. Quizlets:
    2. Online Competitive Games about Earth Day:
    • Variation for younger students: Watch a Disney Earth Day feature length movie about animals around the world interacting with their environment. Discuss how all life (including humans) interacts with its environment.  
Cross Curriculum 

English and Social Studies

  • Research and debate government and nonprofit roles in addressing climate change.
  • Create posters to share in the community about clean up, actions that impact the environment, or historic/natural features of a local hiking trail.
  • Create a community map of natural areas and areas that need clean-up.


  • Sort and measure recyclable material and trash collected during clean-up day.
  • Estimate time and distance to be traveled to clean up local areas.


Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.5 Give examples of stewardship decisions throughout history and in current events.
      2. Benchmark E.5 Recognize the wise use of resources as <i>stewardship</i>.
      3. Benchmark E.7 Define and describe private property and common resources.
      4. Benchmark HS.9 Analyze a major social issue as a "commons problem" and suggest ways the civil society sector could help to resolve it.
    2. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Describe how the common good was served in an historical event as a result of action by a civil society sector organization.
      2. Benchmark E.1 Give an example of philanthropic action that influenced the history of the state or region.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Define stewardship and give examples.
  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 MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.