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Sep 30, 2021


45 minutes


3rd, 4th, 5th


  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Justice
  • Life Science
  • Climate Action

Regional Focus

  • North America
  • United States
  • USA - West


  • Google Docs
  • Google Slides

What Can We Do About Green Spaces? (Green Spaces #5)


This lesson explores ways in which students can address environmental injustice. 

Step 1 - Inquire: Students review information from previous lessons and discuss the guiding questions: "How could putting more green spaces into low-income communities help?" and "How would this be an example of environmental justice?"

Step 2 - Investigate: In groups, students compare the two cities of Compton and Pasadena, California. Students discuss income levels, demographics, tree cover, and air pollution.

Step 3 - Inspire: Students watch a video on young climate activists. Then students choose one of three options: learn about Greta Thunberg, create a climate protest sign, or research the 2019 Youth Climate Summit.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
10 minutes
  • Students review information from previous lessons on green spaces and environmental justice.
  • Students turn and talk about the following two questions:
    • How could putting more green spaces into low-income communities help?
    • How would this be an example of environmental justice?
  • Students explore demographic data for the cities of Compton and Pasadena, California.
  • Students discuss what they think, notice, and wonder and make a prediction about which city has more green space.
20 minutes
  • Teacher hands out the printed maps of Los Angeles tree cover and Los Angeles air pollution.
  • As a class, teacher reviews the map legends to check for understanding.
  • Teacher asks: "Which community has more tree cover? What did we learn in previous lessons about why tree cover is healthy for us and the environment?"
  • Students place the tree cover map in a plastic sheet protector. Students use dry erase markers to color code the tree cover to match the legend. Then students remove the first map and slide in the map of air pollution.
  • Teacher asks the following questions as students compare the maps:
    • Do the colors match? Where?
    • What do we notice about Compton's data compared to Pasadena's data?
    • Which one is more green? Why do you think it is greener?
  • Students discuss their findings in groups.
15 minutes
Teaching Tips


  • This lesson directly shows the relationships among race, income, tree cover, and air pollution.
  • It is very powerful when students compare the maps of Compton and Pasadena and begin to connect the dots.

Additional Prerequisites

  • This is lesson 5 of 6 in our 3rd-5th grade Green Spaces unit.
  • You will use two maps of Los Angeles during the Investigate phase of the lesson. The best move would probably be to print the maps beforehand. The lesson also calls for plastic sheet protectors and dry erase markers so students can compare the maps. If you do not have these materials or access to a printer, students can compare the two maps on a device.
  • To learn more about youth climate activists, students can research groups like Zero Hour, Fridays for Future, or the Sunrise Movement.


  • Depending on the needs of your students, it may be best to compare the two maps of Los Angeles as an entire class.
  • Students compare maps in another StC lesson designed for 6th-8th graders called Redlining & Environmental Racism.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • 3-5-ETS1-2 Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.4.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
    • Reading: Informational Text (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.10 By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 4-5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.


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