The Landscape, Leave It Better than You Found It

9, 10, 11, 12

The purpose of this lesson is for learners to apply their knowledge of the environmental impact of impervious surfaces in their community and propose alternative solutions.

PrintFive 55 Minute Class Periods.

The learner will:

  • describe the extent of impervious surfaces in the community.
  • analyze the environment impact of impervious surfaces on their community.
  • propose alternatives for the use of impervious surfaces in the community.
  • Local maps of the community.(Teacher’s Note: These are available from the Planning Commission, Fire Department, Water and Sewer
  • Department, or other local government agencies, as well as the local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Digital cameras
  • Tape measures
  • See internet resources in Lesson Two: You Can’t Escape the Landscape


  1. Anticipatory Set: Read the following fictitious letter (or better yet a real one from the local Planning Commission or local school board- See Extensions):

    Dear Learners:

    I am writing to ask for your help on a community project. As you know, our community is growing rapidly and there are increasing demands for commercial and residential development.We are concerned about the increased use of impervious surfaces that accompany these developments and the potential for environmental degradation. Before we consider future developments, we would like to assess the existing use of impervious surfaces and reduce, if at all possible, the current use of impervious surfaces.

    We are asking you to serve as consultants to that end. Proposals should be received in my office by (date).Proposals will be presented at the (date) Planning Commission meeting.You will have 15 minutes for the presentation followed by a question and answer session with the Planning Commission. Since we will be able to fund only one of the proposed plans, the most feasible plan will be forwarded to our business office for a cost and feasibility study. Thank You! Respectfully,

  2. Inform the class that they will be working on this community project and organize them equally into four groups . Have each create a corporate name and logo to use on their proposal to the Planning Commission.

  3. Using a local map of the community, draw a grid over the map in such a fashion that each square designates an area not larger than a typical city block, then assign or have learners self-select an area (square) of the community to conduct a “community scan” using the Directions for Community Scan (See Handout One)

  4. Shade in those areas on the community map that have been selected to be a part of the community scan and display this map on the display board.

  5. Review and clarify the directions for the Community Scan. If this scan is to be done as a field trip, gather the necessary authorizations/ approvals and visit the site to obtain the data.

  6. Teacher’s Note: This assignment could also be considered homework, in which case efforts should be made to assign the learners to sections near their own home.

  7. Each Corporate Group will then be required to complete the assignment as outlined in the Directions for Community Scan (See Handout One).

  8. Teacher’s Note: When the Corporate Groups come to the point of actually considering recommendations for alternatives for their identified impervious areas, some ideas that may help their thinking include: bike paths, pedestrian paths, reduce road width, reduce or eliminate use of curbs, replace impervious material with more environmentally friendly material, eliminate or reduce side walks, increase zoning requirements for lot size, set-backs, green belts; require tree preservation and planting; building code requirements for environmentally friendly materials in construction; tax incentives for residential rain water collection; storm water drain filters; adjust height of tree-flower planters in parking lots; reconfigure parking patterns (don’t just build more structures); land conservancy initiate; prohibit mowing of natural habitat near river banks; car-pooling initiatives; convert vacant lots to gardens/parks.

  9. Once all aspects of the project have been completed and presented both in a written and an oral form to the Planning Commission, have the learners share their new learning as well as reflect on how such community scans could actually benefit their community or any community in its efforts to reduce impervious surfaces.

  10. Optional: Have the Planning Commission- the entire class- vote by secret ballot for the best proposal based on anticipated impact and cost, and on that same ballot have the learners indicate why they voted for the proposal that they did.


The learners’ involvement in group discussion as well as their Corporate Group community scan, and their presentation based upon the rubrics provided for written and oral presentations will together provide the basis for an assessment of this lesson.

Cross Curriculum 

Learner teams will investigate a microcosm of their community for the purpose of identifying and recommending changes in the community that represent alternatives to impervious surfaces.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
      2. Benchmark HS.5 Describe civil society advocacy organizations and their relationship to human rights.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give an example why conflict may exist between individual freedom and the community.
      2. Benchmark HS.10 Discuss the results of private citizen voluntary action intended for the common good on public policy changes.
      3. Benchmark HS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.
      4. Benchmark HS.9 Explain the role that public interest groups play in public policy formation.
    3. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss a public policy issue affecting the common good and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
      2. Benchmark HS.4 Analyze and synthesize information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to public policy. Discuss these issues evaluating the effects of individual actions on other people, the rule of law and ethical behavior.