Pavement or Dirt?

9, 10, 11, 12

The youth compare and contrast the uses and aesthetics of dirt and pavement groundcover. They define permeable and impermeable ground surfaces and discuss the merits of each in relationship to the environment.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session

The learners will:

  • define permeable and impermeable.
  • reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of pavement.
Teacher Preparation 

Invite a guest speaker to talk to the group about a sustainability issue. Have youth prepare questions in advance, and then allow time for questions after the guest shares information and resources. 

  • impermeable:  not permitting passage (as of a fluid) through its substance
  • permeable: having pores or openings that permit liquids or gases to pass through having pores or openings that permit liquids or gases to pass through


  1. Anticipatory Set

    Ask young people to look out the window and describe what kind of ground cover they see. They may describe sidewalks, grass, garden, dirt, sand, woodchips, tar, pavement, cement, and paving stones. Write two headings on a chart: “Pavement” and “Dirt.” Groundcover like cement, patio blocks, and tar would go under “Pavement,” while sand, grass, and woodchips would go under “Dirt.” They may brainstorm ground cover other than what is currently around them. Have discussions about things that don't fit clearly in one or the other. 

  2. Introduce a game in which they will role-play as salespeople for either a dirt groundcover or a pavement groundcover company. They will be hired by either the dirt company or the pavement company, and they have to think of creative ways to promote their product or criticize the competition.

  3. Put them into the two groups (dirt or pavement salespeople). Allow the two groups to spend a few minutes talking about the useful and good things about their product before you come together as one group again. Stand in a circle with the two groups mixed together. Have them toss a ball around the circle randomly. When a player catches the ball, before tossing it to another player, they must either say one useful or good thing about their assigned ground cover or one negative thing about the other ground cover. Encourage creativity and details.

    Keep a tally of points for each company. If a salesperson cannot think of something to say, they may pass. Continue playing for a set time or until salespeople start running out of ideas. The group with the most tallies at the end wins. After playing the game, review some of the useful traits of both types of ground cover.

  4. There are positive and useful things about pavement, but serious problems can occur in cities when too much ground gets covered with pavement - higher temperatures, less oxygen because there are fewer plants, water runoff.

  5. Share the definitions of permeable and impermeable (above). Discuss what happens when storm water meets ground that is not permeable. (Sample answers: runoff may create flooding, pollution is carried to lakes and rivers, and degradation of wildlife habitats.)

    Discuss how the need for pavement can be balanced with the need for permeable surfaces.

Cross Curriculum 

Poetry: Write a poem about the Earth.
Physical Education: Run a half mile on pavement and on grass. Compare personal times and determine the better surface for speed and comfort.