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6th, 7th, 8th


English Language Arts


100 minutes

Regional Focus



Google Docs, Google Slides


This lesson plan is licensed under Creative Commons.

Creative Commons License

The Equity of Landfills

Created By Teachers:
Last Updated:
Apr 16, 2024
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In this lesson, students explore various impacts of landfills, learn about the environmental justice movement, and apply their learning to community action.

Step 1 - Inquire: Students learn about the decomposition rates of items commonly found in landfills and begin to discern issues landfills may cause.

Step 2 - Investigate: Students explore their local landfills, watch a video on the beginning of the environmental justice movement, and learn about environmental racism.

Step 3 - Inspire: Students learn about the federal environmental justice office and create a community awareness plan about landfills.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
Teaching Tips


  • Students are made aware of environmental injustice.

  • Students work collaboratively in groups and in pairs to share diverse ideas and perspectives.

  • Students are given voice and choice in this lesson.

  • Students engage in meaningful community action.

  • Students are given various optional extensions to create the most meaningful change in their communities.

  • Both the Investigate and Inspire sections can be extended into one class period each.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Teacher should review the resources prior to teaching the lesson and be familiar with the concept of environmental racism.

  • Teacher will need to make the four signs for the Four Corners game in the Inquire section before teaching the lesson.


  • Students can explore or research three different categories of landfills to learn about rules, policies, containment, and other related issues. 

  • Students can research what has become of the roughly 10,000 closed landfills in the United States and present their findings to the class.

  • Students can explore composting as an option to reduce landfill waste. Potential resources include:

  • Students learn about their local environmental justice office of the EPA through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website. Students can select their region and explore news related to environmental justice in their region. Students can write a report or use initial news articles to develop further research.

  • Students can explore Superfund Sites by locating the ones closest to their community and learning about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) steps to address them.
Scientist Notes

Students will learn about environmental justice movements, the reasons landfills are located in disproportionately poor areas, the harm that landfills do to the environment and nearby communities, and steps they can take to address the problems. We fact-checked the sources used to create this lesson, and it passed our evaluation of the science.


Primary Standards

  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: History/Social Studies (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.3 Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

Supporting Standard

  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • 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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  • This is an EXCELLENT lesson plan on environmental racism! I'm glad lessons like this are available!
    8 months ago