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. Activate students’ prior knowledge of policy by discussing an existing school policy.
  • Choose a school policy to discuss that everyone in your class is familiar with, such as not sharing lockers or an aspect of the dress code.
      • Engage students in a discussion about why this might be a policy rather than handled on a case-by-case basis. Lead them to understand that policies such as this one should be known and followed by all students in the school.
  • Choose a state policy to discuss that everyone in the class is familiar with, such as the driving age or compulsory school attendance.
      • Engage students in a discussion about why a policy such as this would be implemented at the state level.

2. Engage students in a policymaker analysis of their proposed solution to plastic waste in the school community.

  • Project the Policymaker Analysis document and remind students that one of the criteria for the project is a summary of a policymaker analysis.
  • Model filling out the top row (state level) using the school policy you chose to discuss in Step 1. Most likely, it will not make sense to implement at the state level.
  • Model filling out the school level row to see that the policy does make sense at that level.
      • Ask students, Why would this policy make sense at the school level, but not at the state level?
  • Read through each level of organization along the left column aloud and answer clarifying questions.

3. Support students in online research for learning how policies are changed at each level.

  • Allow student policy proposal groups time online to research the policy change process for each level of organization. Some suggested search prompts are:
      • How are policies changed at the ____ level?
      • How can I present my ideas to the decision-makers at the _____ level?
  • Give student groups time to complete the Policymaker Analysis handout using their own solutions.
  • Collect the completed Policymaker Analysis documents.

Informal Assessment

Students complete the Policymaker Analysis as an application of their understanding of policy change processes as they apply to their proposals.

Subjects & Disciplines

  • Social Studies
    • Civics

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Have a basic understanding of how policies are changed at various organizational levels, and who is affected by each of those changes.
  • Analyze their own proposed policy changes or introductions for implementation at various organizational levels.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Discussions
  • Modeling
  • Research

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.WHST.6-8.8:  Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

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

  • D2.Civ.13.6-8:  Analyze the purposes, implementation, and consequences of public policies in multiple settings.
  • D4.7.6-8.:  Assess their individual and collective capacities to take action to address local, regional, and global problems, taking into account a range of possible levers of power, strategies, and potential outcomes.

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Handout: Policymaker Analysis
  • Handout: Policymaker Analysis: Sample Resources

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Monitor/screen, Projector

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Large-group instruction
  • Small-group instruction

Background Information

Policies are useful in schools because they help establish rules and procedures and create a safe environment for learning. They help set expectations and help with accountability for actions. Without these, schools may struggle with consistency and structure when trying to meet students’ educational needs. If these policies are relevant to multiple schools, or an entire district, they are set by the school board. Policies take different forms and are decided on through different processes depending on the organization or level of government. For example, the state and local government can make decisions about policies related to taxes or transportation that need to go through a committee process. At the state level, this involves the legislature, and at the city level, this involves the city council. Decisions made about the school district are made by the school board.


city councilman

person who is elected to the council, or governing body, of a town or city.


group of people, usually elected, who make and change laws.


set of actions or rules.


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

public policy

course of actions, beliefs, and laws taken by a government having to do with a specific issue or concern.