Preparation and Action

3, 4, 5

With guidance from a local environmental agency, prepare the youth in advance of volunteering their time to clean up a lake or river for the common good. Arrange a field trip that includes picking up trash and recording the data. 

PrintOne 30-minute session, plus a field trip

The learner will:

  • explain the importance of acting safely and follow safe clean-up guidelines.
  • reflect on the importance of philanthropic behavior and working for the common good.
  • plastic (latex-free) gloves, garbage bags
Teacher Preparation 

Contact a local environmental nonprofit to ask for guidelines on cleaning up near a local lake, river, or wetlands. Ask about what they might find and where help is needed most. Option: invite a representative to speak to the young people about their work and what is needed. 

Arrange for permission and transportation to and from the beach or other area to clean up.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Describe a recent walk along a lake or river: "I took a walk on the beach (river), and I decided I should bring a trash bag with me the next time. What do you think I saw?" As you listen to their ideas, discuss safe handling practices, what belongs, and what should be thrown away, recycled, or handled by an adult. Invite them to go with you to clean up the area (as a field trip). 

  2. Discuss their motivation and the impact of their work cleaning up the shore or wetland area. Review the definition of philanthropy as "volunteering time, talent, or treasure for the common good." 

    If you have a guest from a local environmental group, have them give an overview of what they do, the need they meet, and how young people can help.

  3. Youth may look up the International Coastal Cleanup project to learn about their work and discuss why they make these reports. Review the categories of items they collect data on. Together they make a list of items they may find in the area they clean up with room for tallying. Review how to make tally marks, with four lines and a slash to record in groups of five for easier counting and tabulating at the end. Ask them to predict how much trash (number and weight) they will find and pick up. 

  4. Move the youth into groups of three or four in preparation for the clean-up project. They can decide together how they will divide up the jobs of picking up trash, holding the bag, and recording what they find. Encourage them to rotate positions. 

  5. On the day of the clean-up field trip, the groups clean up sections of the selected area, picking up items and classifying them on the recording sheet. On their return, they tally up the categories on their data sheet. 

  6. Back in their gathering space, the groups create graphs showing what they found at the beach. Each group writes a summary statement about their clean-up work and its possible impact. 

  7. Optional: The young people may either write a poem or sketch or paint the beach, river, or wetlands area, showing the diversity of life. See the handout below for the poetry forms.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate the skills needed for the successful performance of the volunteer job.
      2. Benchmark E.5 Articulate and demonstrate the safety procedures that are part of the volunteer experience.