Toward a Plastic Responsible Future Unit Driving Question: What can we do to reduce the effects of plastic pollution?

Making Change Happen Lesson Driving Question: How can we implement our solutions?

1. Inspire students with the Students Take on Plastic (STOP) initiative to show that students can have a real impact when it comes to reducing plastic waste in the community.
  • Tell students that there are other young people all over the country who are trying to make policy changes to reduce plastic waste.
  • Play the video STOP Bags Hewitt SD (3:23) from the Green School Alliance STOP Plastics initiative.
  • Make connections between the policymakers who attended the Ban the Bag conference and local policymakers who your students may be able to access.
  • Emphasize that students will campaign for support for their policies, and the class will vote to recommend which should be elevated to the appropriate decision-makers.
2. Have students create campaign materials for their policy proposals.
  • Project the Plastic Policy Project Description and review the criteria. Remind students that throughout this unit:
      • they have already drafted responses to Criteria 1 and 2;
      • they have learned about many examples of people and schools taking action to reduce plastic waste;
      • they have conducted their policymaker analyses; and
      • they have a rich variety of resources to draw from and cite.
  • Have students create their final plastic policy proposal brochures. Give students time to synthesize the materials from across the unit in order to develop their brochures. Have them use the Plastic Policy Proposal Brochure: Checklist and Rubric and the Plastic Policy Project Description to guide their work and self assess their progress. 

3. Have students create petitions to gather support for their proposals.

  • To prepare for active campaigning in the school, have student groups create a petition for their group’s policy proposal. They can use the brochure to generate support and signatures. The petition should include:
      • A brief summary statement of the proposed policy.
      • A few key bullet points to provide the rationale for the proposal.
      • Spaces for signatures.

4. Launch students’ campaigns using their brochures and petitions.
  • Have students take their plastic policy proposal brochures and petitions out into the field to generate support for their proposals.
  • Have students bring at least one copy of their brochure with them to talk through with interested community members and encourage them to sign the petition.
  • Suggest to students that they leave or display any other copies in strategically selected locations around the school (e.g., bulletin board, library, or office). Encourage students to print a few copies to avoid creating paper waste. Most of their campaigning should be done by engaging with community members and collecting signatures.

5. Have students present their proposals to the class.
  • Set up and facilitate a “classroom council” meeting where representatives from different groups rotate to serve on the panel.
  • Have each group use their brochures and signed petitions to present the summary of the findings of their data and proposed policy change to solve the problem. Have groups give supporting evidence and a recommendation for which policymakers should review the proposal. The panel members are tasked with asking clarifying questions.
  • After all groups have presented, have students vote anonymously for which proposal will have the most impact and is the most viable in the community.

6. Facilitate the peer evaluation of group work.

  • Distribute the Plastic Policy Proposal: Peer Evaluation Form to each student. Have each student provide feedback on the form about how their group worked together on this project.
      • Reassure students that you will keep their responses confidential.
  • Collect the completed peer evaluation forms and a copy of each student group’s final Plastic Policy Proposal Brochure.
      • You can use the responses on this form to inform your evaluation of students’ projects.


Students create their final Plastic Policy Proposal Brochures to be evaluated against the Plastic Policy Proposal Brochure: Checklist and Rubric criteria.

Extending the Learning

Students could create a plastics-reduction mentoring program with a local elementary school.

Students could create a personal “Plastic Promise” as a way of thinking about their own plastic use and how to change it.

Students use feedback to improve their proposals, hold a final vote, and then elevate the level of policy change, if applicable.

Subjects & Disciplines

  • Social Studies
    • Civics

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Advocate for a new or changed policy to reduce plastic waste in the school community within the classroom and the school.
  • Evaluate policy proposals for impact and viability.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Learning
  • Reflection
  • Simulations and games

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.4:  Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation. 

The College, Career & Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards

  • D2.Civ.7.6-8:  Apply civic virtues and democratic principles in school and community settings.
  • D4.3.6-8:  Present adaptations of arguments and explanations on topics of interest to others to reach audiences and venues outside the classroom using print and oral technologies (e.g., posters, essays, letters, debates, speeches, reports, and maps) and digital technologies (e.g., internet, social media, and digital documentary).

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Handout: Peer Evaluation Form
  • Handout: Plastic Policy Proposal Description
  • Handout: Plastic Policy Rubric
  • Handout: Policymaker Analysis

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, 1 computer per pair, Color printer, Monitor/screen, Printer, Projector, Speakers, Word processing software

Physical Space

  • Classroom
  • Other


  • Large-group instruction
  • Small-group work

Other Notes

Students will need time to campaign for their policy proposals. This activity will take several days.

Background Information

A campaign is an important work in community activism. Campaigns are ways to interact with the public to raise people’s awareness about an issue and spread your message widely. It is a method for getting people on board with what you are trying to do, and convince decision-makers to make meaningful change. A petition is one campaign strategy to garner support for your issue. A petition is a formal written request that people sign when they support the idea. Campaign posters are another strategy. There are certain design techniques that can strengthen a campaign poster. Activists, including student activists, can campaign on many different issues that range from environmental issues, to political issues, to human rights issues.



to conduct or coordinate activities designed to achieve a social, political, or military goal.


having to do with a government led by its citizens, who vote for policies and/or representatives.


to request, often by a form signed by the requestors.


set of actions or rules.


person or organization responsible for creating government or organizational rules and behavior.