Not to da Dump!

By Debra Buchan, January 2, 2009

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

Approximately 2 weeks; 80 minute block schedule


Problem: Our school has no provision for recycling!!!!!! Relevance: Survival of our planet. Students will use their creativity to design an affordable, attractive, feasible means to implement a recycling plan for paper, plastics, glass and cardboard at their inner city charter high school.

National Standards

History/Historical Understanding Standard 1: Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns. Language Arts Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes. Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts. Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking for different purposes. Science Standard 9: Understands the sources and properties of energy. Benchmark 11: Understands the origins and environmental impacts of renewable and nonrenewable resources, including energy sources like fossil fuels (e.g., coal, oil, natural gas)> Standard 14: Understands how human actions modify the physical environment. Standard 16: Understands the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution and importance of resources.  

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Craft and Structure:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Anchor Standards for Writing:

Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.


Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.


Students will be able to: 1. understand how their own actions can affect the entire planet. 2. take responsibility for their actions by making the conscious choice to dispose of their recyclables in an appropriate manner. 3. define the problems caused by recyclable materials NOT being properly recycled. 4. design a feasible recycling plan for their school. 5. effectively present a solution to defined problem.


Reading materials: excerpts from Cormac McCarthy's The Road. PC and Mac computer lab access for research and typing of papers. Smart board, computer and projector, audio-visual equipment as needed for presentations. Art and design materials available through design department for model making or art work students may need for presentations. Internet site (with links to other beneficial information): The City of Philadelphia Recycling Hotline: 215.685.7329.


Materials necessary will be determined by students solution presentations.


Week 1:IDENTIFY/INVESTIGATE Day 1 Motivation: Every day this teacher carries home bags full of recyclables the students have given to her. Teacher will take a picture of one day's worth of recyclables and create a photo collage of that picture times 100 (approximate number of homerooms in school = 20 x 5 days in one school week) to illustrate for the students how many bags of recyclables the students alone produce (and this does not even include the amount of paper that just gets thrown out!) in one week. Teacher Asks: What IS recycling? What do students currently recycle, if anything? How do they recycle--curbside, at a center? Do students see a value to recycling? Do students have an understanding of the impact of NOT recycling? Students will: 1. spend 5 minutes freewriting reaction to questions raised by teacher and class discussion. 2. receive assignment to design an affordable, attractive recycling plan for school. 3. break into 6 groups of 4 members. Each group will then assign roles: facilitator, research leader, design leader, presentation leader. (Class has done a lot of group work throughout semester, so group roles are familiar.) 4. spend 2nd half of 80 minute period researching history of recycling in Philadelphia and why our school does not recycle. Day 2 FRAME PROBLEM 1. In computer lab, groups will prepare powerpoint presentations which will summarize their research on recycling from day 1. 2. Groups will present powerpoints in class. 3. Discuss political/social/economic reasons why our charter school does not have recycling. 4. Revisit questions posed by teacher on day 1. Do students have different responses or opinions after doing their research and viewing their classmates' powerpoint presentations? Days 3-6 FURTHER INVESTIGATION/SOLUTION GENERATION Day 3 1. Students will spend 40 minutes in computer lab locating resources in the city available to give them assistance in implementing a recycling plan in a charter school. 2. Students will spend 40 minutes in classroom with group members brainstorming a plan of action: how are we going to contact our resources? via email/phone/in person? what questions are we going to ask? what do we need to know before we contact city agencies? (e.g. school size, current trash collector for school, interest among students for participating). Day 4 1. Students will spend 40 minutes in computer lab contacting agencies, services or individuals they have determined will be of assistance in helping them formulate their solutions. They will also use this time to complete any further research they may have to do before meeting with their sources. 2. In classroom, groups will compile list of contacts and when and where they plan to meet and/or speak with them. This list will be handed in along with the list of questions groups have prepared to ask these contacts. Day 5 1. This day will be used for "field work." This class is co-taught by an English teacher and a history teacher, so it is possible to chaperon the students if they need to see one of their contacts in person. Our school day ends at 3:30 and most city offices are open until 4:30 and are within walking distance, so our students should be able to meet someone after school. 2. HW: Each student will compile his/her notes on research responses. A one-page summary of this information will be handed in on next school day. Week 2: SOLUTION GENERATION/IDEA DEVELOPMENT Day 1 1. (2nd) MOST important day of all! Based on all of their research, students will "refine" the problem. 2. Once we have reached an agreed upon statement of the problem, the students will get into their groups. 3. Groups will search for their solution to the newly refined problem. Their solution is for the school (as client). It must be affordable, attractive, and feasible. Groups must find a way to sell their solutions to the client. 4. By end of class, each group will present a tentative outline/sketch/mockup of solution as well as a materials list, in case teacher needs to acquire something hard to get. Days 2,3,4 EDIT/DEVELOP IDEAS With teacher supervision and guidance, students will prepare/build/film their solution presentations. During these three days, students will also be responsible for completing a one-page process paper listing the problem, the means used to reach their solution (interviews, online/municipal/library research, etc.), method used to decide on presentation, and brief synopsis of solution. Attached to the process paper will be an MLA formatted works cited page. Day 5 IMPLEMENT SOLUTION/RE-EVALUATE SOLUTION 1. Each group will give a 10-minute presentation to classmates, including oral and visual description of why their solution to the recycling problem is feasible, attractive, affordable, and how they would encourage other students as well as school faculty and staff to "buy into" their solution. 2. Class will offer suggestions for improvements to projects. Students will have opportunity to incorporate suggestions, make improvements, and re-present projects in classroom before presentations are made to larger school audience. 2. Each class will vote on its the "best" solution presentation. 3. The winning presentation from each of our 3 classes will compete against one another in an all-grade assembly to decide which plan will be implemented schoolwide. The winning presentation will be performed either on video or live for entire school population and board of trustees at time of implementation.


1. Individuals will  be graded on their teacher-observed group participation, their HW, process paper, and contributions during class discussion. 2. Groups will be assessed on effectiveness and creativity of their presentations and feasibility and creativity of their solutions. 3. Work is differentiated by forming groups with students of different strengths.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Extension: Students will receive extra credit if they show evidence (e.g. pictures) of their own participation in recycling activities at home or in their community. PRESENTATION MAY ALSO BE VALUABLE FOR OTHER PRIVATE OR CHARTER SCHOOLS IN OUR DISTRICT FACING SIMILAR RECYCLING PROBLEMS.

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