At the end of the lesson, students will be able to:
• define the concept of environmental racism relating it to fairness or unfairness.
• recognize environmental hazards and learn that certain communities are affected more than others.
• create posters illustrating environmental hazards and their dangers to a community—and promoting healthy environments for all communities.
• What is environmental racism?
• How might people work to stop environmental racism?
• Environmental racism occurs when dangerous materials (such as toxic waste and other kinds of pollution) are regularly placed in, or near, communities of low-income or minority people.
• People can work to prevent environmental racism by insisting that minority and low-income community members are involved in decisions about where to place hazardous materials, and by influencing their government to distribute those materials more equally among all communities.
• slices of red and green apples or red and green grapes (Important: Make sure no one has allergies.)
• cards or stickers in two distinctly different colors (e.g., yellow and blue).
• art supplies (poster board, markers, etc.) for making signs and posters
• fair (fair) (adjective) free from bias and injustice
• discrimination (dih-skrim-uh-ney-shuh n) (noun) favoring or being against a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit
• environmental (en-vahy-ruh n-muh nt l) (adjective) related to the natural world (air, water, rocks, living things). The environment affects human and other living things, and is affected by them.
• pollution (puh-loo-shuh n] (noun) the introduction of harmful substances or products into the environment
• prejudice (prej-uh-dis) (noun) an unfavorable feeling or judgment about a person or groups of people, formed even before knowing that person or group
• racism (rey-siz-uh m) (noun) a belief that differences among human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement. Racism usually involves the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
1. Give each student a slice of either a red apple or a green apple (or red or green grape) with a red or green napkin and either a yellow card or a blue card. Important: Be sure to check for allergies.
2. Have all the students with red napkins sit on one side of the room and all the students with green napkins sit on the other. Instruct students to eat their fruit and to hold on to any leftovers. Tell students with a yellow card: “Please give your napkins and leftovers to a person with a green napkin.” Explain that the people with green napkins have to hold this garbage even though they didn't create it. Note: Students might protest and say things like, "That's not fair," "You're playing favorites," or they might ask "Why?" You can tell them, “Just because.”
3. Ask students to return to their original seats and to give you back the cards. You can also walk around with a garbage bag to collect wrappers and leftovers.
4. After everyone is settled again, walk around the room. Ask: “How did the exercise make you feel?” Encourage students to express their feelings. Explain that some kids were forced to take garbage they didn't make simply because they received a green card. Point out that sometimes in real life people are treated unfairly because of where they live or the color of their skin. Ask: “Do you know any words that might describe that?” (Note: Depending on the age, students might offer terms such as unfair, racism, discrimination or prejudice.)
5. Explain that certain neighborhoods are more likely to suffer from issues such as pollution, excess garbage and other environmental problems. Often this is because of unfair practices, such as putting dumps and landfills in poor or minority areas. This may happen because no members of that community are on the committees that make decisions about where a dump should go.
Alignment to Common Core State Standards/ College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards CCSS W.7; W.8; W.10; SL.1; SL.2; SL.3; SL.4. SL.5; SL.6; L.4
1. Explain that environmental hazards close to or in neighborhoods present a big problem around the world. Remind students of the classroom exercise (above) that showed how garbage might be disposed of in unfair ways. Point out that many neighborhoods are faced with unfair environmental hazards just because of unfair decisions or because of where a dump might be located or other reasons.
2. Ask students to think of examples of these hazards. Suggest some examples: air pollution, water pollution, food safety problems, and too much garbage. Ask each student to pick one environmental hazard. Based on their choices, assign students to work in groups or in pairs and to create a poster, using pictures and/or words, with a main message: Every child deserves to live in a healthy environment.
To continue the discussion about the environment, read aloud one of these two young-child-appropriate books:
Just a Dream, by Chris Van Allsburg. Walter does not seem to care about keeping the planet clean until he dreams of living in world filled with polluted oceans, mountains of trash and forests without trees. Discuss Walter’s behavior throughout the book. Ask: “Who is creating pollution? Who can help Earth? Why does Walter change his ways? “
City Green, by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. Marcy lives on a block near a littered vacant lot, until she decides to turn the lot into a beautiful garden.