Overview of Unit: This unit and lessons are part of the AFT’s Civics Fellows Initiative entitled Educating for Democratic Citizenship. In addition to focusing on the important content knowledge and dispositions that are necessary for active participation in democracy, these lessons also emphasize pedagogical approaches to teaching civics: questioning and discussion, using controversial statements, and engaging in inquiry with student-generated questions.
One common aspect of civics is often about addressing and raising awareness about environmental justice in local and global communities. For elementary students, it is developmentally appropriate in understanding basic concepts associated with environmental justice to be fully engaged and capable of taking action. Additionally, students must move from the abstract to the concrete when making meaning. Consequently, this particular unit and the five lessons address environmental justice but through deepening an understanding of three concepts—pollution, recycling, and conservation—with an emphasis on the question: What can schools do to educate for environmental justice? In the imaginary community of Yucksville, third graders deepen their understanding of these concepts and take action to keep a community clean by offering suggestions to Mayor Lysol, Governor Pine-Sol, and the Squeaky-Clean Committee.