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Created by


Jun 25, 2021


60 minutes


6th, 7th, 8th


Social Studies, Justice, Health

Resource Language:


Regional Focus



Google Docs, Google Slides

Flying: The Ultimate Climate Injustice


This lesson outlines who flies most frequently and the health and climate impacts of aviation. 

Step 1 - Inquire: Students learn how aviation is detrimental to human health and well-being.

Step 2 - Investigate: Students learn how aviation causes climate change, how aviation is unjust, and how “clean flying” does not exist at scale yet.

Step 3 - Inspire: Students explore personal stories of people giving up flying and reflect on that decision.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
20 minutes
  • Teacher creates groups of 3-4 students.

    • Students can either explore the scientific paper Aviation Noise Impacts: State of the Science or the accompanying Google Doc called Excerpts from Aviation Noise Impacts: State of the Science.

    • Each group will look at one section of the paper:

      • Children’s Learning

      • Sleep Disturbance

      • Health Impacts

    • Each group member will be responsible for writing notes for one of the following three questions: 

      • What did the author think I already knew? 

      • What surprised me? 

      • What challenged, changed, or confirmed my thinking?

  • This paper pulls data from 70 different papers and pools it all in one place.

  • This paper can be tough to understand. It might be a stretch for some of the students, but collectively they can make some meaning from it.

  • The goal is for students to understand the detrimental effects of aviation noise.

25 minutes
  • In groups, students explore the Stay Grounded Information Page.

  • Students read through the first three questions on the site:
    • What is the climate impact of aviation?
    • How bad is flying for your carbon footprint?
    • How unjust is flying?
  • These first three questions have two infographics each. Students look at six infographics in total.
  • Students write down noticings and wonderings with their group as they explore the data. 

  • Groups share out with the rest of the class.

15 minutes
  • Students explore different activist groups that are trying to reduce aviation, read personal stories of people committed to staying grounded, and discover the social power of non-flying.
  • Students write a reflection in their own document, responding to the provided questions.
  • Teacher can use these guiding questions to prompt further discussion and reflection.
Teaching Tips


  • This is the story of airplanes and justice. Many of the statistics about wealth and flying will be new to the students. This lesson clearly shows that a small percentage of people fly and have an outsized impact on our planet.
  • Students are able to dig deep and reflect on their own personal choices.

Additional Prerequisites 

  • Each group of students will need a copy of the teacher slideshow. They will write in their group's slideshow during the lesson.
  • Remember that commercial aviation has only been widely available since about the 1950s. That’s about 70 years. Anatomically modern humans have been around for about 200,000 years.
  • Flying is inherently unjust because few people have the means to travel by plane. Rich people can fly. Poor people can not fly. And marginalized communities pay the climate consequences first and worst.

  • “The commons” pays for aviation - children’s learning, sleep disturbance, health impacts, and climate and ecological breakdown. All of these are consequences from aviation.


  • The scientific paper on aviation noise is pretty dense. The excerpts are easier to navigate and highlight how aviation noise impacts learning, sleep, and health.

  • How to approach this subject largely depends on the socioeconomic status of the students. There may be some classrooms where all students have flown in an airplane. Other classrooms will have no students who have flown in an airplane. It is important to be careful with language during the end of the lesson. Be sensitive to the situations of each of your students.
  • There may be some pushback if teaching this lesson to students from affluent families. Many humans have come to see flying as something that is normal, desirable, and natural.

  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Civics
      • D2.Civ.1.6-8 Distinguish the powers and responsibilities of citizens, political parties, interest groups, and the media in a variety of governmental and nongovernmental contexts.
      • D2.Civ.6.6-8 Describe the roles of political, civil, and economic organizations in shaping people's lives.
      • D2.Civ.14.6-8 Compare historical and contemporary means of changing societies, and promoting the common good.
    • Dimension 4: Communicating and Critiquing Conclusions
      • D4.1.6-8 Construct arguments using claims and evidence from multiple sources, while acknowledging the strengths and limitations of the arguments.
    • Dimension 4: Taking Informed Action
      • 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.


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