50 mins
<p>Plastic litter is a serious problem around our communities, like the&nbsp;empty bottles, cellophane bags, and plastic cans around this&nbsp;stream.</p>

Students learn from model case studies about different solutions to reduce or eliminate plastic in communities that have been successfully implemented.


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. Introduce students to the final project phase.
  • Explain to students that they are going to consider the ways in which their proposed solutions will need to be implemented.  
  • Project the Plastic Policy Project Description and bring their attention to step three, supporting their proposed policy change. In this activity, students will be learning about examples of implementation that they can draw on for this part of their proposal.
  • These examples may not involve direct policy change, but can be used to inform students’ proposals.

2. Facilitate students’ rotation through case study learning stations.

  • Explain that other people are working to reduce and eliminate plastic waste in their communities.
  • Explain that they are going to learn about what some people have done for inspiration to tackle the unit driving question: What can we do to reduce the effects of plastic pollution?
  • Set up four learning stations with the following resources available for students to rotate through:
  • In their policy groups, have students visit each of the four stations. As they visit each station, have students record their ideas using two-column notes guided by the following questions:
      • What is the solution implemented in this example?
      • What is similar about this project to our project?
      • What might we use from this project in our policy proposal to the school?
  • Give students the opportunity to revise their solutions based on these examples, if applicable.

3. Discuss and reflect.

  • Have students share with the class their ideas in response to the guiding questions in Step 2.
  • Students write a short reflection in response to the following question: How did the station learning inform, change, or confirm your planned proposal?


Informal Assessment

Students demonstrate their understanding of the plastic-waste reduction methods from the case studies and their relationship to the final project in their reflective writing.

50 mins
<p>Different parts of the United States government&mdash;whether it be federal, state, or city&mdash;play different roles in serving their communities. Here, Tampa, Florida, purchasing director Gregory Spearman, left, speaks at a city council meeting.</p>

Students conduct a policymaker analysis to consider the role of the state, city, school board, principal, and students in implementing proposed solutions to plastic waste in the school community.


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.

2 hrs 30 mins
<p>Young people are shown here protesting against climate change.</p>

Students actively campaign for plastic-waste reduction based on their ideas for solutions to the problem. They complete their policy proposals and present their ideas to the class. The class votes on which proposal would likely have the most impact and would be the most viable in the community.


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


Students will:

  • Apply aspects from model case studies of implementation to their own proposal for a plastic reduction in the school community.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Learning
  • Modeling
  • Multimedia instruction
  • Reflection
  • Research
  • Simulations and games
  • Writing

Skills Summary

This lesson 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.  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. WHST.6-8.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.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. 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). 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

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • 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


Set up the room in learning stations so that groups can visit the four content pieces. You can set up multiple stations of the same type so that smaller groups can access each piece of content.


  • Large-group instruction
  • Small-group instruction
  • Small-group learning
  • Small-group work

Accessibility Notes

  • None

Other Notes

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

Background Information

Prior Knowledge

  • None

Recommended Prior Lessons

  • None



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

city councilman

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


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


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


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


chemical material that can be easily shaped when heated to a high temperature.


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.


to clean or process in order to make suitable for reuse.


to lower or lessen.


to give up, renounce, be unwilling to accept.


to use again.

waste stream

the sum of wastes by a single entity.