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Hands-on Activity: What's a Kid to Do? Environmental Letter Campaign

Quick Look

Grade Level: 5 (4-6)

Time Required: 1 hours 45 minutes

(two 50-minute sessions)

Expendable Cost/Group: US $0.00

Group Size: 1

Activity Dependency: None

Subject Areas: Earth and Space, Physical Science, Science and Technology

A hand-drawn patch with the Earth in the middle, surrounded by a yellow ring and an outer red ring. Overlaid, the message: Global Response, Do the Write Thing! www.globalresponse.org.
Students explore ways to help environmental problems
Copyright © Global Response Environmental Action and Education Network, http://globalresponse.org.


Students write letters as part of an environmental action campaign. They become more aware of global environmental problems and play a part in their solution.
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Because environmental engineers are so knowledgeable about air pollution problems, they contribute in many ways towards solutions to this global health issue. Some engineers study the origins and impact of air pollution, and design technologies to prevent it or clean it up. Others educate and advise the public and government about the impact on human health and the environment, using their expertise to deliver a strong message so that action is taken to require the reduction of pollution.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Students learn how to write letters as part of an environmental action campaign.
  • Students incorporate source materials into their speaking and writing (for example, interviews, news articles, encyclopedia information).
  • Write and speak in the content areas using the technical vocabulary of the subject accurately.
  • Read, respond to and discuss literature that represents points-of-view from places, people, and events that are familiar and unfamiliar.

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

NGSS Performance Expectation

5-ESS3-1. Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment. (Grade 5)

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This activity focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Obtain and combine information from books and/or other reliable media to explain phenomena or solutions to a design problem.

Alignment agreement:

Human activities in agriculture, industry, and everyday life have had major effects on the land, vegetation, streams, ocean, air, and even outer space. But individuals and communities are doing things to help protect Earth's resources and environments.

Alignment agreement:

A system can be described in terms of its components and their interactions.

Alignment agreement:

Science findings are limited to questions that can be answered with empirical evidence.

Alignment agreement:

  • Various relationships exist between technology and other fields of study. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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  • Examine, evaluate, question, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media to investigate how environmental conditions affect the survival of individual organisms (Grade 6) More Details

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Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

  • Paper and pencils
  • Access to the Internet

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Pre-Req Knowledge

A general familiarity with the issues and problems of air pollution.


Never underestimate the "power of one," especially when that "one" is part of "many." Letter-writing campaigns can be effective. Your letter can make a difference.

In this activity, you are going to take action by participating in a letter-writing campaign through Global Response (http://www.culturalsurvival.org/current-projects/global-response). Examine their website to see how their campaigns work. Read some of their success stories.

Good luck with your letter-writing campaign!


In Air Pollution unit, Lesson 10, students learned about technical engineering solutions for air pollution problems. In this literacy activity, they learn what they, themselves, can do to help with the solution to an environmental problem.

Global Response, an environmental action group based in Boulder, Colorado, regularly mounts effective letter-writing campaigns focused on pressing environmental problems. Global Response Kids (for ages 8-12) and GR Youth Action (for ages 13-18) are the youth-oriented arms of Global Response (see http://www.culturalsurvival.org/current-projects/global-response). You can join and become a Young Environmental Activist with Global Response. For example, in September and October 2003, young people were asked write a letter to French president Jacques Chirac to tell him why the New Caledonia coral reef needs to be protected and ask him to nominate the reef to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Following are examples of recent successful Global Response initiatives. These are two big victories in which letters from Global Response's Young Environmental Activists (YEA) made a difference!

  • In August 2002, YEA members wrote to the president of Chile and asked him to stop the construction of a huge aluminum plant in the Aisen region. The people of Aisen opposed the Alumysa project because it would destroy much of their beautiful temperate rainforest and cause deadly air and water pollution. In July, the president of Chile made a speech warning about the environmental dangers of the Alumysa project. Right after the speech, the Noranda Company withdrew its application to build the Alumysa plant! Global Response received a letter from the people of Aisen that said, "A hug and many thanks to all who helped us win this victory!" That means you!
  • In November 2002, YEA members wrote letters to the president of the United States Export-Import Bank in Washington DC. They asked him not to give a loan to companies that want to build the Camisea gas pipeline in Peru. This project would cause environmental destruction in tropical rainforests and threaten many endangered species like the giant otter. In August, the Export-Import Bank rejected the loan application for the Camisea pipeline! Doesn't it feel great knowing that your letters really help protect our forests, rivers, oceans and endangered species? Good for you! And, good for our planet!

Please note: Air pollution problems are relevant to most Global Response actions but are not necessarily the focus of the action. It should be possible in most cases, however, to create a tie-in to the Air Pollution unit. This is true of the Caledonia Reef action. The concern there is with the effect on the island (and reef) of all types of industrial pollution, including air pollution.


Research thoroughly before you write. The Global Response website provides sufficient background material on its current and ongoing campaigns for you to write an effective letter. Also, keep in mind all you have learned in the Air Pollution unit. Not all Global Response actions are related specifically to air pollution concerns, but most have a tie-in. In learning about air pollution, you have learned much about pollution in general.


Letter writing always provides an opportunity for thought. Choose your words carefully for best effect. Mark Twain once said, "If I'd had more time I would have written a shorter letter." What do you think he meant? An old saying is, "You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar." (You can win people to your side more easily by gentle persuasion and flattery than by hostile confrontation.) How might this apply to your letter writing?


Global Response has proven that polite, positive, informed letters work. They are easy, inexpensive and powerful. Study Global Response's letter-writing tips, listed below (or at ): http://www.culturalsurvival.org/current-projects/global-response

  • Make your letter personal. Tell why you care about this issue.
  • Say that you are writing in support of the local communities and organizations that are working to protect the environment.
  • Include the specific points that are listed in Global Response's online Campaign section.
  • The addresses provided by Global Response are of equal importance. A brief, polite letter to each targeted official is more effective than a long letter to just one.
  • Stick to the facts. One inaccurate statement, accusation or innuendo can invalidate an otherwise excellent letter. Quote relevant and valid facts from scientists and engineers.
  • Avoid political or ideological issues unless specifically recommended.
  • Applaud positive environmental steps taken by the targeted corporation, agency or government.
  • Suggest why it is in the interest of the corporation, agency or government to prevent environmental destruction.
  • Ask for a reply to your letter.
  • Keep copies of responses you receive. Global Response provides updates to past campaigns and often issues "follow-up actions" on ongoing concerns.


campaign: An operation or series of operations energetically pursued to accomplish a purpose: an advertising campaign for a new product; a candidate's political campaign.


Pre-Activity Assessment

Use in-class call-out questions to check students' comprehension of background material.

Activity Embedded Assessment

Use call-out questions during the Thinking discussion to reinforce understanding.

Post-Activity Assessment

Review students' letters for grasp of the facts of the particular campaign, for grammatical correctness and overall persuasiveness.

Troubleshooting Tips

Plan on one 50-minute class session to introduce concepts (Observing and Thinking sections), and another 50-minute class session to coach students on letter writing.

Activity Extensions

Become a reporter for Kids for Saving Earth (see https://kidsforsavingearth.org/programs/action-programs/kse-reporter/).

Investigate other youth-led environmental action groups listed at FreeChild.org (see https://freechild.org/technical-assistance/actions/). Consider joining one of the groups and report back to your class about your activities.

Activity Scaling

  • This is an individual activity. While the students' work is checked for grammatical correctness, the best reward is the satisfaction of participating in the campaign.


Dictionary.com. Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. Accessed September 22, 2004. [Source of vocabulary definitions, with some adaptation.] http://www.dictionary.com

Environment: Young People, Social Change & the Environment. The Free-Child Project, Prompting Young People and Social Change, Olympia, WA. Accessed September 22, 2004. (Provides links to numerous youth-led and youth-focused environmental action groups. Students are sure to find a group whose focus interests them.) http://freechild.org/enviro.htm

Global Response Environmental Action and Education Network. Global Response, Boulder, CO. Accessed September 22, 2004. ("Global Response [GR] empowers people of all ages, cultures and nationalities to protect the environment by creating partnerships for effective citizen action. At the request of indigenous peoples and grassroots organizations, GR organizes urgent international letter campaigns to help communities prevent many kinds of environmental destruction. GR involves young people as well as adults in these campaigns to develop in them the values and skills for global citizen cooperation and earth stewardship.") http://www.globalresponse.org

Kids for Saving Earth. Kids for Saving Earth® & MLTGroup. Accessed September 22, 2004. (Provides free, inspiring, environmental education curriculum by mail and online.) http://www.kidsforsavingearth.org/

Letter-Writing Tips. Global Response, Boulder, CO. Accessed September 22, 2004. http://www.culturalsurvival.org/current-projects/global-response


© 2004 by Regents of the University of Colorado.


Jane Evenson; Malinda Schaefer Zarske; Denise Carlson

Supporting Program

Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder


The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no. 0338326. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: September 15, 2018

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