Pick Up a Litter Bit (7th Grade)

6, 7, 8

Using the school custodian as a resource, learners investigate the issues of litter and trash within the common areas of their school community. They work together to resolve these issues and create a plan for ongoing cleanup, engaging the whole school in the philanthropic efforts.

PrintOne 50 Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • identify and share reactions to and feelings about litter/trash found in common areas of the school environment.
  • identify problems associated with litter/trash.
  • brainstorm ideas for resolving this issue.
  • define philanthropy and common good and explain how they relate to cleaning up a common area.
  • create a strategy for involving the entire school in a plan to resolve this problem.
  • Copies of Handout One: My Opinion/Fact for each learner
  • Copies of Handout Two: Journal Rubric for each learner
  • (Optional for Extensions) Copies of Handout Three: Data Collection Sheet for each learner
Teacher Preparation 

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


  1. (Teacher Note: Make arrangements with one of the building custodians or food service workers to come to your classroom to discuss what he or she sees as problem areas on the school grounds concerning litter and trash.)

    Anticipatory Set: Ask the students to raise their hands if they have ever had the household chore of "taking out the garbage." Ask them to think about when in history they think people started "taking out the garbage" and putting it in a designated place. Ask the students what garbage issues they know about today. Lead a discussion about garbage with some of the following questions: What is wrong with litter? What problems could litter or trash cause? How do you feel when the areas you see and use are trashed? Introduce words such as natural resources, conservation, and environment into this discussion. Ask the learners if they have seen places around school that seem to collect litter and trash. (Go to the following site to see a timeline of how trash management got its start: https://www.astc.org/exhibitions/rotten/timeline.htm Look at the earliest years for the most interesting facts.)

  2. Have the students complete the odd-numbered statements on Handout One: My Opinion/Fact.

  3. Introduce the guest speaker to the class. Have the guest explain the job of a custodian/food service worker (and crew) and respond the issues on Handout One: My Opinion/Fact sheet from his/her perspective. Allow the students to ask questions that will help them complete the even-numbered statements on the worksheet.

  4. Lead the class in a discussion about the problems associated with litter within the school community.

  5. Have the class, along with the guest speaker, brainstorm ways that everyone could help resolve these problems. The custodian/food service worker may have insight on what causes people to litter and how to stop it or encourage people to clean it up.

  6. After the custodian leaves, have the students complete the even-numbered statements on the worksheet.

  7. Write the terms philanthropy and common good on the display board. Assist the learners in defining the word philanthropy as "giving time, talent, or treasure for the common good." Explain that common good " involves individuals promoting the welfare of the community for the greater benefit of all."

  8. Ask the students how they can give their time, talent, or treasure to help resolve the issue of litter within the school community. Ask them why doing this is for the common good.

  9. Using consensus, develop an Earth Day project that addresses the issue of litter. They should think about actual cleanup, raising awareness in the school, and making a plan for ongoing maintenance.

  10. The following journal prompt can be used at the beginning of the Event and again at the end. Students can compare their thoughts over time and experience. What could you say to someone who feels that "since I didn't put it there it's not my responsibility to pick it up" that might convince him or her that everyone has a role to play in promoting the common good? Have the learners use the Journal Rubric (Handout Two) to assist them in their writing.


Assessment for this lesson is based on the learner's participation in class discussions, the successful completion of the Handout One: My Opinion/Fact, and the completion of the journal entry based on the Handout Two: Journal Rubric provided.

Cross Curriculum 

Students set up a disposal collection center in the lunchroom and educate all students on how to separate lunch materials (trash, compost, and recycled materials) rather than putting everything in trash cans. Students make posters and other art forms to educate and inspire students throughout the building to reduce litter.

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. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
  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.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.
      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.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Provide a needed service.
    3. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify outcomes from the service.