Learners measure and calculate impervious/pervious areas. They utilize their knowledge of the environmental impact of impervious surfaces to propose alternative solutions in their community. Students propose a service-learning project to raise awareness or take action about reducing impervious surfaces in the community. This lesson includes reflection and a final demonstration.
Two or Three 55-Minute Class Periods, Plus time to gather data and carry out service project and demonstration
The learner will:
- measure and describe the percentage of impervious surfaces in the community.
- analyze the environment impact of impervious surfaces on their community.
- propose alternatives to impervious surfaces in the community.
- create a presentation to inform the community about the need to decrease impervious surfaces. Presentation may take the form of an oral report, presentation software, newspaper article, creative film, poster, or informational flyer.
- use his/her voice to plan a service project.
- reflect on service experience.
- demonstrate learning to the class, parents, and/or the community.
Learner teams will investigate a microcosm of their community for the purpose of identifying and recommending changes and alternatives to impervious surfaces.
Follow student voice to plan advocacy or project ideas that arise out of research and discussion. Possible projects include creating a rain garden, planting trees, holding an environmental stewardship awareness campaign, promoting green spaces on school campus, or raising awareness in the community about living roofs, rain barrels, or gardening.
Read the following fictitious letter (or a real letter from the local planning commission or local school board. See Extensions):
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!
- Tell the class that they can make a positive recommendation to the planning commission that will reduce human impact on the environment and improve conditions for future generations. Organize the class into four groups that will work on this community consulting project.
- Write the following words on the board: cooperation, communication, respect, and listening. Tell the students that their first job is to use these four group skills to create a name and logo to use on their proposal to the planning commission. Tell them that you will walk around and listen for language that demonstrates the use of these group skills. Give the teams ten minutes to make their decision. After they have their names and logos, discuss the positive examples of teamwork.
- Draw a grid over a community map. Each square of the grid designates an area not larger than a typical city block. Assign each group an area (square) to conduct a “community scan.” (Assign areas near the school.) Give each learner a copy of Attachment One: Directions for Community Scan. Teacher Note: This assignment could also be considered homework, in which case efforts should be made to assign the learners to sections near their own homes.
- 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 sites to obtain the data.
- Give the groups a timeline for completing the analysis and proposal.
Teacher’s Note: When the groups have collected data and are considering recommendations, the teacher may assist the dialogue with some ideas for reducing impervious surfaces: bike paths, pedestrian paths, reduce road width; reduce or eliminate use of curbs; replace impervious material with more environmentally friendly material; eliminate or reduce concrete sidewalks; increase zoning requirements for lot size and green belts; require tree preservation and planting; building-code requirements for environmentally friendly materials in construction; tax incentives for residential rain water collection; stormwater drain filters; adjust height of tree/flower planters in parking lots; reconfigure parking patterns (rather than build more structures); land conservancy initiative; prohibit mowing of natural habitat near river banks; carpooling initiatives; and convert vacant lots to gardens/parks.
When the four teams are ready to present their proposals to the planning commission, set up the room like a board room. Give each corporate group 15 minutes to present their proposal with time between presentations for questions. The rest of the class will serve as the planning commission members. Remind them that they are acting as elected officials with the job of making decisions that benefit the whole community and show stewardship for the environment. They may ask questions for clarification about the proposals. It may take one or two class periods to hear all of the presentations.
Optional: After all of the presentations are complete, have the planning commission--the entire class--vote by secret ballot for the best proposal. They should select the proposal based on anticipated impact and cost and explain in writing why they voted for the proposal that they did.
Once all of the proposals have been completed and presented to the planning commission, have a reflection discussion. Ask the learners to share their new learning and reflect on their roles as advocates. Reflect on their effectiveness as a team. Discuss how cooperative teamwork benefits individuals and the community.
Discuss how they can be advocates for the issue of pervious surfaces in the larger community. Discuss and brainstorm projects the class can organize to increase permeable surfaces in the community. Through the discussion, allow the students' enthusiasm to guide the class in the direction of potential projects that demonstrate their responsibility for the environment. Encourage the students to carry their influence into the larger community. Use Attachment Four: Service Plan as a guide for planning and carrying out a service project. They may choose to do one project with the entire class or groups may take on smaller projects.
Demonstration: After students carry out their service project, set up an opportunity for them to demonstrate their learning to parents, other students, and/or the larger community. The demonstration may take the form of an event or a publication. Videos, articles, and other products may be submitted to the Star-Ledger to reach a wider audience and raise awareness about the issue of impervious surfaces.
This lesson was adapted from Learning to Give 9-12 Lesson "The Landscape, Leave it Better Than You Found It" http://www.learningtogive.org/lessons/unit386/lesson3.html
- Assess learners’ involvement in group discussion as well as cooperation in their corporate groups. Use the provided rubrics to assess oral and written presentations.
- As a demonstration and assesment, have each student write an editorial, blog, or social media message, describing their project and the rational for environmental stewardship, and advocating for community action. Students may read examples of letters to the editor at the local newspaper and then send their completed letters the paper to be published as letters to the editor. Teach the students about the structure and format of their editorial letters. Discuss tense (past or present), point of view (first person), effective introductions (attention-grabbing and summary of main points), transitions, and conclusions (powerful, building to crescendo).
Remind learners to:
- show (using sensory detail and conversation) not just tell about their experiences.
- use comparisons in metaphors and similes to help the reader identify with the social concern.
- use genuine voice so that the narratives are personal, real, and appropriate for their purpose and audience.
- include accurate facts.
- think about their audience.
- write with fluency and clarity.
Contact the local planning commission and share with them the scope of this lesson. Request their cooperation in having the learners investigate the extent of impervious surfaces in the local community, develop alternatives, and present their findings in a 15-minute presentation to the actual planning commission at a regular meeting. 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. Or, approach the Board of Education to ask for a project in which the students investigate a school campus for environmental imact.
Lesson Developed By:Betsy Flikkema
Observe and record data about the surfaces found in your assigned area. As you work, think about percentage of surface area that allows water to seep through the ground.
1. Draw and identify the parameters of your assigned area, defining it by the intersecting streets. Sketch in the buildings and other surfaces within the area.
2. Measure and gather data for your assigned area and record this information in the chard below.
3. Take photos of areas that could be improved and areas that are positive examples of green space. (These photos can be used in the presentation.)
4. Write observations that will help the group describe the features and issues on this site.
5. Keep a list of ideas for possible improvements.
Impervious Surfaces Number and Square Footage Occupied? Yes/No Buildings Sidewalks Compacted Soil Vacant Lots Alleys Roads / Streets Parking Lots Patios/Athletic Courts Driveways Houses Other (Explain)
Number and Square Footage
Roads / Streets
6. Having collected and recorded the information requested above, design an 8” x 8” informational map representing your assigned area.
Illustrate the items in the chart above and those listed below using the following color legend:
Green: farmland, parks, woods, lawns, gardens
Red: impervious surfaces
Blue: rivers, lakes, ponds
7. Discuss in your corporate group what might be done to reduce the amount of impervious surface located in your assigned area.
Designate where changes could be made.
Reach a consensus, keeping in mind that "city funds" are limited for your corporate group’s proposal to the Planning Commission.
8. Develop a written/visual presentation of your proposal using Attachment Two: Rubric for Written Proposal.
9. Develop and rehearse the oral portion of your proposal using Attachment Three: Rubric for Oral Presentation of Proposal.
Determine responsibilities for each group member.
10. Present your corporate group’s proposal to the planning commission (the entire class).
Be prepared to answer clarifying questions about the benefits to the community and environment.
The presentation to the planning commission should include one or more of the following:
Make sure the written/visual part of your presentation includes the following elements.
Practice your presentation before presenting to the planning commission.
Make sure all of the following elements are ready.
The Community Need or Issue:
Plan of Action (Timeline):
Expected Outcome (Measurement):
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