Whose Responsibility Is It? (9th Grade)

9, 10, 11, 12

The learners will explore the four economic sectors and the responsibility to care for the environment. They will determine how they are responsible for environmental stewardship and create a plan for what they can do to help.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Forty-Five to Fifty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • identify the four economic sectors.
  • understand the role each of these sectors play in caring for the environment.
  • define environmental stewardship.
  • develop and implement a personal plan of action to address an environmental issue.
  • Student copies of Handout One: Responsibility Sheet
  • Student copies of Handout Two: Game Pieces
  • Scissors, and Tape
  • Student copies of Handout Three: An Action Plan

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:

    Place the following four words on the display board and ask the learners to match the four economic sectors of society (Government, For-Profit /Business, Non-Profit, HouseholdGovernment, For-Profit /Business, Nonprofit, Household)to the definitions you read below:

    1. The authoritative administration of public policy and affairs of a nation, state or city; the system or policy by which a political unit is governed; any governed territory, district or area
    2. Any profit or non-tax exempt business not associated with any government, government agency, or non-profit enterprise.
    3. Any not-for-profit or tax-exempt organizations collectively that are specifically not associated with any government, government agency, or commercial enterprise
    4. those people occupying a dwelling together, the people of a house collectively
  2. Share with the learners that these are the four economic sectors of our society and that all the services and goods available involve one or more of these sectors.

  3. To ensure that the learners understand this concept, ask the following questions: “Which of these four sectors might be considered to be the most responsible for National Security? (Government) Which of these four sectors might be considered to be the most responsible for producing consumer products? (For Profit/Business) Which of these four sectors might be considered to be the most responsible for opening and maintaining a local food pantry or shelter? (Non-profit) Which of these four sectors might be considered to be the most responsible for raising a child? (Household)

  4. Once the learners have a general understanding of the four sectors, distribute the Handout One: Environmental Responsibility of the Four Sectors and review how the sheet is set up in sector columns.

  5. Tell the learners that today’s lesson is focusing on environmental stewardship issues. Define steward and stewardship as:

    • stewardship: The careful supervision of resources (for this lesson, natural resources).
    • steward: A manager of resources; a person responsible for maintaining effective use of resources.
  6. Distribute Handout Two: Environmental Problems, scissors and a large piece of tape to each student. Explain to the learners that they are to cut out the problem pieces, read each one and, using their understanding of the four sectors, assign each piece to the one sector that they feel should be held most responsible for addressing that problem.

  7. Once they have made the decision where to place the “responsibility,” have the learners tape the problem in the appropriate column.

  8. When the learners have completed their ‘assigning of responsibility,’ form groups composed of three learners each, and ask them to share their individual decisions concerning the ‘responsibilities’ in their group and then discuss. Give each group an additional copy of Handouts One and Two. Reach group consensus in the assigning or re-assigning of responsibilities. Using the new Handouts, have the groups indicate their results from their having reached consensus.

  9. Have each group then share their ‘responsibility’ assignments for each sector with the whole class.

  10. If possible, reach consensus as a total class, but where consensus might be ‘impossible,’ place the problem under the sector heading that reflects the majority of the groups’ “responsibility assignments.”

  11. When completed, ask the following questions: 1) How many of you feel that your individual ‘responsibility form’ closely reflected the conclusions you arrived at in your group? 2) How many of the groups feel that their group ‘responsibility form’ closely reflected what the total class’ ‘responsibility form’ indicates? 3) What did you learn from this exercise? 4) Was it easy to assign responsibility in each case? 5) Would you have assigned some of the responsibilities to more than one sector? 6) Is there one sector that is most responsible for addressing most of the problems?

  12. Now have the learners reflect on how this statement might be true, ”As an individual, I can do something to help in everyone one of these problem areas identified on the Environmental Problem list” (Handout Two), i.e. pick up trash, vote for government officials that are sensitive to environmental issues, buy cars that get better gas mileage, volunteer in non-profit organizations, advocate my concerns in writing to city officials, not buy products made by businesses that pollute the environment, etc.

  13. Share with the learners that as a response to Earth Day, they each will be given an opportunity to identify a problem that pertains to an environmental issue in their community (one that they identified and/or one that identified in the exercise they just completed). They are to develop a personal “plan of action” (Handout Three) for how they propose to use Earth Day as a time to address that problem for the common good. If time permits, have the learners share their action plans with the whole class.


Involvement in class discussion Involvement in group work Depth and relevance of the learner’s “action plan.”

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.5 Give examples of stewardship decisions throughout history and in current events.
      2. Benchmark HS.9 Analyze a major social issue as a "commons problem" and suggest ways the civil society sector could help to resolve it.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.10 Discuss the results of private citizen voluntary action intended for the common good on public policy changes.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Describe a detailed action for service.