factory pollution

Teaching About Environmental Racism: Four Activities

by Marsha Rakestraw

We enjoy our cars, our homes, our stuff, and the wastes and the toxic chemicals and pollutants used to create — or which are a result of — our shiny stuff go “away” somewhere that we don’t really have to think about.

But there is no “away.”

The waste processing plants, the oil refineries, the chemical plants – those are somewhere, and usually that somewhere is in a low-income and/or “minority” neighborhood.

Many schools are teaching kids about recycling and going “green,” but often the issue of environmental racism isn’t addressed.

Yet, it’s an important issue that affects everyone.

Here are four activities from Teaching Tolerance for teaching kids about environmental racism:

What Is Environmental Justice? is an activity for grades 3-5 that helps students see how air pollution is connected to environmental injustice.

Progressive City Planners is an activity for primarily middle school students that asks them to “build” their own city and consider where they’re going to establish different elements, from parks and libraries to waste facilities and industrial plants that spew environmental hazards. Then students compare their city with those in the real world.

Analyzing Environmental Racism has middle and high school students use maps and graphs to analyze how people of color are disproportionately adversely affected by an oil spill and its clean up.

Reporting on Environmental Racism offers high school students a chance to use their journalism skills to explore and share the impacts of environmental racism.

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