They Paved Paradise

9, 10, 11, 12
Keywords & Concepts: 

The students define environmental stewardship and determine responsibility for caring for the environment.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session

The learners will:

  • define environmental stewardship.
  • reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of pavement.
  • determine responsibility for caring for the environment.
  • Internet access for video and online article/statistics (if possible)
  • Chart paper for group notes
  • environmental stewardship: the careful and responsible management of the environment and the earth's natural resources

Read the lyrics and play a YouTube version of “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell. 


  1. Anticipatory Set

    Ask youth to think about the meaning of “paradise.” Tell youth that one definition of paradise is “a place where somebody finds comfort and beauty.” Describe a place that you consider to be paradise with the group. Perhaps it is a place you visited, a vacation destination, or even your backyard. Encourage the learners to join you in identifying these types of places.

  2. Ask: “What would happen to your paradise if it were paved, blacktopped, or cemented?”

  3. Read the lyrics of “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell. Then play the song at:

  4. Have the whole group discuss the implications of “paving paradise.”

    Some possible answers: 1. Paved areas may be unattractive and may become wasteful or polluted. 2. Trees and other plants cannot grow there. 3. Water runoff has no place to go because the ground is impervious.

  5. Distribute copies of a map of the community. Ask students to highlight all those places where there is no pavement such as golf courses, parks, empty land, water. Ask them to reflect on this question: Is there more pavement than green space in our community? Ask them to imagine how the map might look different if it were for another neighborhood or region.

  6. Discuss the term environmental stewardship and have the learners share what they know or think they know about the meaning of these words. Once the group has finished hypothesizing, share the definition of environmental stewardship: "the careful and responsible management of the Earth’s natural resources.”

  7. Ask:

    • Who has been entrusted with the care of the Earth’s natural resources? Is it the government’s responsibility, the individual’s, business, environmental organizations or all?
    • What actions can we take as environmental stewards? More specifically, what can we do to care for our natural groundcover? (Possible answers include: plant gardens and plant boxes, collect rainwater, make and distribute rain barrels, write letters to the government about pavement concerns, etc.)

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Explain why needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society and family.
      2. Benchmark HS.4 Identify, from a given list of functions, which sector is usually responsible for a specific function in society.
  2. 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. 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.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.