Let's Clean the Beach!

3, 4, 5

Students will be active philanthropists by volunteering their time to clean debris from the beach at a local park for the common good. (This activity can be adapted to your location, i.e., clean any public park area.) They will estimate and weigh their bags, total their tally sheets and make observations. They will also create poetry and draw sketches of the beach environment.

Lesson Rating 
PrintFour hours (Allow time to get to the park, about 2 hours for the actual cleaning of the beach, 30 minutes for lunch, and about 90 minutes for reflection through poetry and drawing the dune scene. If time is limited, you could skip the lunch and reflect at

The learner will:

  • classify, categorize, and tally.
  • estimate and then weigh.
  • describe the importance of protecting the environment through a poem and sketch.

Note: Some of these are provided by the Lake Michigan Federation, but if this does not apply, you would need:

  • Sturdy, large garbage bags (about 6 - 8)
  • Rubber gloves (one glove per student)
  • Tally sheets—one for each team - (see Lesson Two: Preparation—The Right Way to Help and Form for Poetic Reflection - Handout Two)
  • Pencils, crayons, and colored pencils for drawing
  • Paper
  • Clipboards (one for each student)
  • A whistle for calling the students back together
  • Suntan lotion, sun glasses, hats, etc. (Students should have their own.)


  1. As learners questions such as:

    "Why are we going to Park ________?"

  2. "What are our procedures?"

  3. "How will we know if we succeed?"

  4. "What will it look like?"

  5. Ask students to write a prediction in their writing journal as to which item they will find most often.

  6. Review skills needed to perform this task in an orderly manner and remind students that they are volunteering their time for the common good.

  7. Break into prearranged teams with adult helpers and obtain necessary supplies (bag, gloves, pencil, data card/tally sheet). Put names on the data card.

  8. In groups clean the beach, picking up objects and determining if they are trash; if so, categorize and tally the item and put it into the bag.

  9. Total the categories on the data sheet. (This may be done later back in the classroom.) Collect the data sheets for later use.

  10. Have a restful lunch.

  11. Spread students out for writing their reflective pieces (haiku and cinquain) and drawing sketches. These should reflect the learners' involvement as philanthropists at the beach and express their feelings about this project.


haiku and cinquain poems about the environment sketch of the beach project

Cross Curriculum 

Students will clean the beach in teams, tallying their results as they go.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.1 Provide a needed service.
      2. Benchmark E.3 Describe the task and the student role.
      3. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate the skills needed for the successful performance of the volunteer job.
      4. Benchmark E.5 Articulate and demonstrate the safety procedures that are part of the volunteer experience.
    2. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark E.2 Evaluate progress on the service-learning project before, during, and after the project.