Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

The Landscape, Leave It Better than You Found It
Lesson 3
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


The purpose of this lesson is for learners to apply their knowledge of the environmental impact of impervious surfaces in their community and propose alternative solutions.


Five 55 Minute Class Periods.


The learner will:

  • describe the extent of impervious surfaces in the community.
  • analyze the environment impact of impervious surfaces on their community.
  • propose alternatives for the use of impervious surfaces in the community.

Service Experience:

Although this lesson contains a service project example, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.
Learn more about the stages of service-learning.

Learner teams will investigate a microcosm of their community for the purpose of identifying and recommending changes in the community that represent alternatives to impervious surfaces.


  • Local maps of the community. (Teacher’s Note: These are available from the Planning Commission, Fire Department, Water and Sewer
  • Department, or other local government agencies, as well as the local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Digital cameras
  • Tape measures
  • See internet resources in Lesson Two: You Can’t Escape the Landscape
Handout 1
Directions for Community Scan
Handout 2
Rubric for Written Proposal
Handout 3
Rubric for Oral Presentation or Proposal

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:
Read the following fictitious letter (or better yet a real one from the local Planning Commission or local school board- See Extensions):


Dear Learners:

I am writing to ask for your help on a community project.  As you know, our community is growing rapidly and there are increasing demands for commercial and residential development. We are concerned about the increased use of impervious surfaces that accompany these developments and the potential for environmental degradation.  Before we consider future developments, we would like to assess the existing use of impervious surfaces and reduce, if at all possible, the current use of impervious surfaces. 

We are asking you to serve as consultants to that end.  Proposals should be received in my office by (date). Proposals will be presented at the (date) Planning Commission meeting. You will have 15 minutes for the presentation followed by a question and answer session with the Planning Commission. Since we will be able to fund only one of the proposed plans, the most feasible plan will be forwarded to our business office for a cost and feasibility study. Thank You!

  • Inform the class that they will be working on this community project and organize them equally into four groups . Have each create a corporate name and logo to use on their proposal to the Planning Commission.

  • Using a local map of the community, draw a grid over the map in such a fashion that each square designates an area not larger than a typical city block, then assign or have learners self-select an area (square) of the community to conduct a “community scan” using the Directions for Community Scan (See Attachment One)

  • Shade in those areas on the community map that have been selected to be a part of the community scan and display this map on the display board.

  • Review and clarify the directions for the Community Scan. If this scan is to be done as a field trip, gather the necessary authorizations/ approvals and visit the site to obtain the data.


Teacher’s Note: This assignment could also be considered homework, in which case efforts should be made to assign the learners to sections near their own home.


  • Each Corporate Group will then be required to complete the assignment as outlined in the Directions for Community Scan (See Attachment One).


Teacher’s Note: When the Corporate Groups come to the point of actually considering recommendations for alternatives for their identified impervious areas, some ideas that may help their thinking include: bike paths, pedestrian paths, reduce road width, reduce or eliminate use of curbs, replace impervious material with more environmentally friendly material, eliminate or reduce side walks, increase zoning requirements for lot size, set-backs, green belts; require tree preservation and planting; building code requirements for environmentally friendly materials in construction; tax incentives for residential rain water collection; storm water drain  filters; adjust height of tree-flower planters in parking lots; reconfigure parking patterns (don’t just build more structures); land conservancy initiate; prohibit mowing of natural habitat near river banks; car-pooling initiatives; convert vacant lots to gardens/parks.   

  • Once all aspects of the project have been completed and presented both in a written and an oral form to the Planning Commission, have the learners share their new learning as well as reflect on how such community scans could actually benefit their community or any community in its efforts to reduce impervious surfaces.

  • Optional: Have the Planning Commission- the entire class- vote by secret ballot for the best proposal based on anticipated impact and cost, and on that same ballot have the learners indicate why they voted for the proposal that they did.


The learners’ involvement in group discussion as well as their Corporate Group community scan, and their presentation based upon the rubrics provided for written and oral presentations will together provide the basis for an assessment of this lesson. 

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

Contact the local Planning Commission and share with them the scope of this lesson, soliciting their cooperation in having the learners investigate the extent of impervious surfaces in the local community, develop alternatives, and present their findings in writing as well as in a 15-minute presentation to the Planning Commission at a regular meeting.  Likewise an alternative to this scenario could be for the City Planning Commission to identify a proposed commercial or residential development and contract the learners to critique the Environmental Assessment and/or the Environmental Impact Statement.  
The school site could also be investigated in this same manner in which case  the  authorizing body would be the Board of Education

Bibliographical References:

Lesson Developed By:

Jerry Morris, Ph.D.
Curriculum Consultant
Learning to Give


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Directions for Community Scan

Your Corporate Group is responsible to complete the following:

1. Draw and identify the parameters of your area defining it by intersecting streets.
2. Measure and gather all the data for your assigned area and record this information in the grid below



Impervious Surfaces

# of and Sq. Footage

Occupied? Yes/No







Compacted Soil



Vacant Lots






Roads – Streets



Parking Lots



Patios/Athletic Courts








Other (Explain)




3. Having collected and recorded the information requested above, design an informational map representing your assigned area (8”x 8”) approximating the locations of the items listed above and those listed below using the following color legend:

      Green   - farmland, parks, woods, lawns, gardens….
      Red       - impervious surfaces
      Orange  - trees  
      Blue       - rivers, lakes, ponds….

4. Discuss in your Corporate Group what things might be done to reduce the amount of impervious surface located in your assigned area, designating where it is that changes could be made and alternatives suggested. You must reach a consensus, keeping in mind that City Funds are limited, as to your Corporate Group’s proposal for the Planning Commission.

5. Develop a written presentation of your proposal using the Rubric for Written Proposal (See Attachment Two).

6. Develop and rehearse the oral portion of your proposal using the Rubric for Oral Presentation of Proposal (See Attachment Three).

7. Present your Corporate Group’s proposal to the Planning Commission. (the entire class)

Handout 2Print Handout 2

Rubric for Written Proposal

Included Corporate Name and Logo                                                         Yes / No                                                                                                                                                 

Included names of group members                                                           Yes / No                         

Proposal had an introduction, body and conclusion                                 Yes / No                            

Clarity of language and logical development of ideas                              4  3  2  1                       

Grammar and mechanics of writing                                                          4  3  2  1                          

Described the current use of impervious surfaces                                   4  3  2  1                           

Described any negative environmental impact of impervious surfaces    4  3  2  1             

Proposed ways to reduce the current use of impervious surfaces           4  3  2  1                    


Note: Four represents the highest level of achievement and one the lowest level of achievement.     



Handout 3Print Handout 3

Rubric for Oral Presentation or Proposal

All members of team present.     Yes / No                                  
Stayed within 15 minute parameter     Yes / No  
Two or Three team members shared the presentation     Yes / No 

Introduction included an expression of appreciation for the opportunity; name of corporation and an overview of the
presentation including an introduction, body, and conclusion     4  3  2  1

Described the current use of impervious surfaces in a clear and concise manner with supporting evidence and documentation     4  3  2  1

Described any negative environmental impact of impervious surfaces in a clear and concise manner with supporting evidence and documentation     4  3  2  1

Proposed ways to reduce the current use of impervious surfaces in a convincing/persuasive manner     4  3  2  1

Used visuals - i.e. power point, digital images,models, or project board.     4  3  2  1


Note: Four represents the highest level of achievement and one the lowest level of achievement.

Philanthropy Framework:

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Don't Be Impervious to the Impermeable Summary


Whose Land Is It Anyway?
You Can't Escape the Landscape
The Landscape, Leave It Better than You Found It

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