Litter and Environmental Stewardship (8th Grade)

6, 7, 8

Learners identify the issues related to trash and litter and determine each person's role and responsibility for environmental stewardship.

PrintOne 50 Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • identify areas where trash and litter seem to accumulate.
  • identify reasons people litter.
  • articulate his/her attitude toward and reaction to litter.
  • define and explain what it means to be an environmental steward.
  • explain the connection between being an environmental steward and performing philanthropic acts.
  • plan an environmental stewardship activity for Earth Day.
  • Photos of litter and trash in the community or internet access to pictures of litter (pollution pictures may be found at Golden State Images
  • Student journals
  • Printout for each student or projected copy of Why Do People Litter?
  • Printout for each student or projected copy of Why Should You Care?
  • (Optional for Extensions) disposable or digital cameras
Teacher Preparation 

In advance, take photos of litter dropped in areas of the community or school campus. Have the pictures ready to display at the beginning of this lesson. You may assign this job to a few students as extra credit. As an alternative, use photos taken in other areas to show types of litter and pollution (see Materials).

Note: Anytime students are touching trash, they should be wearing gloves for their own safety.


Draw an outline of a person. By the head, write or draw what you think of your environmental action. By the heart, draw how you feel. By the hands, write what you did. By the feet, write your next steps.



  1. Anticipatory Set: Display pictures of trash and litter on the projection screen. (See Materials.) Encourage the students to look closely at these pictures and think about what the lesson will be about today.

  2. Ask the learners to tell where they have seen evidence of trash and litter, especially around the school building and in the local community. List these locations on the display board.

  3. Pose the question, "Why do you think people litter?" Record student responses on the display board.

  4. After they have exhausted their ideas, distribute copies of Why Do People Litter? (See Materials.)

  5. Discuss this handout by asking the learners which of these reasons might be more typical of an adult and which of these reasons might be more typical of people their own age. Are the reasons for littering the same for any age? Why or why not?

  6. Have the learners write in their journals about how they feel about litter. Have them respond to the following prompt: "When I see litter or trash on the floors of our school or on the grounds around our school, I am most likely to _________ because _________."

  7. After students have a chance to form their own opinions in their journals, discuss how people might feel about picking up litter left by others and why. Encourage them to think about all sides of the issue. Why would some people be hesitant to pick up someone else's trash? Why would another person be willing to pick up another person's trash?

  8. Write the word environmental stewardship on the display board. Ask the learners what they know about the word stewardship. (Defined as "the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care.") Then have them hypothesize the definition of environmental stewardship. (Defined as "the careful and responsible management of the environment and its natural resources entrusted to human kind.") Tell the students that litter is a form of pollution, and it harms the environment in many ways. In addition, littering is a waste of resources. Many of the items people throw on the ground could be recycled, reused, or composted. Environmental stewardship includes the concept of protecting natural resources, such as air, water, and soil from the harmful effects of pollution and waste. Distribute copies of Why Should You Care? (See Materials.)

  9. Have the learners return to their journals to respond to the following prompt: "If an environmental steward saw litter inside or on the grounds around our school, that person would most likely _________ because _________.

  10. Encourage students to share their responses with the class. Discuss whether it is our responsibility to be environmental stewards. Discuss how the students might positively influence other people who choose to litter (keeping in mind why people litter).

  11. Point to the list, already on the display board, of areas where the learners have seen evidence of trash and litter. Ask the students which area(s) they think are most in need of cleaning up and why?" Lead the students to making a commitment to environmental stewardship on the school grounds.

  12. Define philanthropy as giving time, talent, or treasure for the common good. Ask students to explain why being an environmental steward is an example of philanthropy. (Acting as an environmental steward is a philanthropic act because picking up trash and caring for the environment takes time, talent, and/or treasure and promotes the common good.)

  13. Have the class propose ways they can be environmental stewards through a service project. Begin to develop a plan for implementation.


The assessment of this lesson is based on learner participation in the group discussions and journal entries.

Cross Curriculum 

Students make a plan to clean up the trash in a designated area and advocate for taking care of a common area.

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 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.9 Recognize problems different communities encounter using a "commons" and possible solutions.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify and research public or social issues in the community, nation or the world related to the common good. Form an opinion, and develop and present a persuasive argument using communication tools.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the classroom or school, such as voting, group problem solving, classroom governance or elections.
  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.
      2. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve 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 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Provide a needed service.