Environmental Justice (Grade 7)

6, 7, 8

The students learn about environmental stewardship and its importance to the common good by viewing a documentary and/or through print information. Students will decide on and carry out a service project that demonstrates environmental stewardship.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne 45 minute class period

The learner will:

  • explore the benefits of recycling, energy and resource conservation and pollution reduction.
  • experience service by cleaning up a local park to demonstrate the importance of environmental justice.
  • “An Inconvenient Truth” DVD
  • Box of garbage bags
  • Pairs of non-latex gloves
Teacher Preparation 

The film "An Inconvenient Truth" is 100 minutes in length. If class time doesn't allow for students to view the entire documentary, selected parts may be shown. 

The documentary is available on-line for download at no cost. See Bibliographical References. The DVD is also widely available for rent at most DVD rental businesses and at many public libraries.

service: to provide a community or organization with something that it needs

donate: to give or present something, especially to a charitable organization or other good cause

environment: the natural world, within which people, animals, and plants live.

justice: fairness or reasonableness, especially in the way people are treated or decisions are made

"An Inconvenient Truth" website - movie trailer, interactive activities, study guide:  http://www.takepart.com/ait10

Allmovia.com - free download of  "An Inconvenient Truth": http://www.allmovia.com/mov/an_inconvenient_truth/



  1. Facilitator introduces the theme of the day, Environmental Justice – this means that students will learn that everyone, no matter their race or economic position, deserves to live in a safe and clean environment.

  2. Next, watch the movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” Facilitate a discussion about the themes of the movie and the importance of helping others. Ask:

    • What is global warming?
    • Explain the climate crisis and it came to be.
    • Describe various ways that people pollute the environment.
    • What are the effects of climate change locally, nationally, and globally?
    • What can people do now to save the planet?
  3. (Optional) Download the educational guide for more discussion questions and ideas: http://www.penrithlakeseec.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/sg_an_inconvenient_truth.pdf

  4. Discuss the effects of environmental (in)justice with students. Use the information below:

    • What is Environmental (In)justice?
  5. Environmental justice is the right of all people to equally share in the benefits and burdens of the environment. Environmental injustice occurs when certain groups carry a greater share of environmental risks and hazards and lack the power to influence decisions about the environment.

    This includes dumping in hazardous waste sites, landfills and incinerators in communities with large minority and poor populations. Environmental injustice can also exist on an international scale. A major form of injustice occurs when developed countries produce dangerous chemicals and export them to developing countries with relaxed environmental laws.

  6. Distribute print copies or read aloud the two examples below and hold a class discussion using these questions: How is each one an example of environmental injustice? What are possible ways to stop this type of injustice? What are some examples of environmental injustice that you see in your community? What are some steps you can take to combat this injustice?

  7. Example 1: On May 17, 2005, French aircraft carrier Clemenceau returned to France after being prohibited from entering a shipyard in India. Earlier in the year, a French shipping agency had signed a deal with the French navy to remove asbestos material from the ship before it could be sold. The shipping company claimed to remove all but 45 tons of asbestos. However, further investigation by various environmental groups found that between 500 and 1000 tons of asbestos remained in the ship. When the Indian government refused to allow the ship to dock, due to a lack of clear documentation about its toxic contents, the French President was forced to recall the ship back to France.

    Example 2: The poor, rural, rice-growing community of Guiyu in China has been transformed into a booming electronic waste processing center. Laborers at an electronic waste disposal site regularly burn circuit boards and plastics from old computers. They pour acid on electronic parts to extract silver, gold and other valuable metals. According to reports, nearly 80 percent of the children in Guiyu suffer from lead poisoning.

  8. Compare Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy of service to the themes of “An Inconvenient Truth.” Ask:

    • How did both Dr. King and Al Gore encourage others to serve?
    • What message would both of them convey to youth to get them interested in service?
    • What will you do to continue their message of service?
  9. Remind students that in learning about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,they learned about how one person can make a difference through service. In “An Inconvenient Truth," they learned that it is everyone’s responsibility to help address global issues. Just as Dr. King and Al Gore have demonstrated their dedication to help others through social activism, students will demonstrate service by caring for the environment- environmental stewardship.

  10. Review the concept of philanthropy - giving time, talent and treasure for the common good - and ask students to brainstorm examples from their own lives or the lives of others. Brainstorm ideas for a class project for an environmental stewardship service project, locally or globally. Ask the students to think of activities that exhibit care for the Earth we share and demonstrate to others that stewardship of the Earth benefits everyone and is everyone's responsibility. Suggest to the students that a simple first step would be to clean up a local commons area to address the issue of pollution, but allow students to make a decision about what environmental project they would like to do.

  11. If the choice is a clean-up project, group the class into two or three teams, and give each team a garbage bag.

  12. Make sure that each student has a pair of non-latex gloves. Explain that the class will clean up a local area of their choice by picking up trash and litter. Students should pick up trash and place in their respective team’s garbage bag. (Remind students that they must not pick up glass or other sharp objects—the teacher will collect these items.Also, review the boundaries, and remind students of ways that they can work together as a team.)

  13. Optional: Give students a separate bag for recyclable items and encourage them to separate the trash that they pick up and put it in its appropriate place.

  14. Reflection is a key component of service-learning that adds meaning to the experience. Ask students how they felt about cleaning up the park and how they think others will feel about their act of service. Discuss with students why doing this project was important.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Provide a needed service.
      2. Benchmark MS.5 Articulate and demonstrate the safety procedures that are part of the volunteer experience.
    3. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify outcomes from the service.