Lesson 5.1: Advocating for Change on the School Grounds

In this lesson, students will finalize and present their plan for ecological, bioculturally diverse school grounds to decisionmakers and the public.

Grade Level: 6 - 12 or equivalent

Subjects: Science, environmental science, ecology, social studies, communications

Concepts/Vocabulary: Persuasion, ethos, logos, pathos, transformative argument

NGSS Performance Expectations:

Middle and high school:

  • Asking questions and defining problems

  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions

  • Engaging in argument from evidence

  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

5E Unit: Elaborate


  • Human-Environment Interactions

  • Cross-cutting Themes

Universal Design for Learning Connections

Key knowledge (Students will know that):

  • Preparation of a compelling presentation involves synthesizing various pieces of information as well as expressing a clear argument and ask of your audience

  • Being a good audience member is important for supporting team members and earning respect for your cause

Key skills (Students will be able to):

  • Apply attributes of successful advocates to their own lives

  • Use the elements of compelling presentations in their own work

  • Adapt their presentations for the audience to which they are presenting

  • Serve as high level presenters and audience members

Key dispositions (Students will value):

  • The efforts of advocates to speak out and take stands for their beliefs

  • The effectiveness of using emotion in making compelling presentations

  • The contributions of community members who have taken on advocacy roles

  • Their own ability to create and deliver a compelling persuasive presentation in front of a live audience

Technology Connections: Internet resources (optional)


  • Notebooks/electronic journal for each student to be used throughout the project as observation journals

  • Journal observations from throughout this project

  • Presentation slides from each lesson

  • Large paper for presentations (or other means of displaying the information) (optional)

Estimated Time for Lesson: 2-3 45-minute class periods

Lesson Objectives

Students will:

  • Identify attributes of successful advocates and apply them as they create their presentations.

  • Describe the elements of compelling presentations and apply them to their own work.

  • Practice being good audience members.

  • Seek examples of community members who took on leadership roles to advocate for a cause.

  • Work together on presentations to give to school or community leaders.

  • Document their thoughts and insights about the activities in this lesson in a journal.

Assessment Opportunities

  • Contributions to class discussion

  • Quality of teamwork

  • Quality of presentations according to a rating scale and their presentation rubrics

  • Descriptions of observations in student journals

  • Journal entries describing key takeaways from this lesson

  • Preparation of slide(s) for presentation


Public speaking is an essential skill for success in nearly any career and most aspects of life. It is difficult to think of any job or situation in life where the need to feel comfortable in speaking one's opinion is unnecessary. By practicing this skill in safe spaces where encouragement and constructive criticism from their peers can help students improve, they will find it much easier to rely on their ability to advocate for their positions as adults.

Persuasion is the act of using logical reasoning to convince others to do something or believe in an idea (Study.com). According to the philosopher Aristotle, there are three pillars of effective persuasive arguments. They are:

  • Ethos: having credibility and being respected by the audience

  • Logos: basing your argument on facts and evidence, and keeping things real. Is the change you are asking for logical and could it really happen?

  • Pathos: evoking emotion in that the audience feels something in a profound way

Getting Ready to Teach

This lesson follows a sequential step pattern and requires background knowledge (see above).

In this lesson, student groups will finalize their presentations to school or community leaders on their ecological, bioculturally diverse school grounds plan. They have been working on rough drafts of their slides (or other means of presenting the information) according to this Presentation Rubric since Lesson 1.1. They will need their notes for all of the slides they have developed. This lesson is where they show their capacity to be change agents, engaging in environmental action civics.

Students will begin this lesson by watching some persuasive speeches by advocates and taking note of the elements that stand out to them as being particularly effective.

An important aspect to the students' presentations is the audience to which they will be presenting. Students should spend some time researching the appropriate venue for their request to change the purpose and management of the school grounds so they can better understand what the questions and concerns will be. They may wish to attend meetings of the body prior to getting on the agenda to present their case. Many public meetings are also broadcast online.

Please open the links prior to teaching the lesson. You may also refer to additional resources at the bottom of this page.

The Lesson

Part I. How Do We Approach Our Audience?

  1. Have students watch this video on The 3 Magic Ingredients of Amazing Presentations.

  2. In their groups, ask students to discuss the points made and whether the example given by the presenter made them motivated to use his "magic ingredients" method for their own persuasive, transformational presentations. They can make some notes in their journals.

  3. Using this Audience Transformation Roadmap form taken from the video, ask students (in their groups) to watch these short presentations and see which parts of the form they can fill out. How did the presenters do?

a. His Epic Message Will Make You Want to Save the World

b. Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez of the Earth Guardians on Climate Change

c. These Women are Taking the Lead in the Fight Against Climate Change

Part II. Understanding Our Audience

  1. Before students can refine and finalize their presentations, they need to understand their audience. Is it a school committee, district school board, neighborhood group, or city council?

  2. Using internet resources, interviews, and attending virtual or in-person meetings of the organization to which they will be presenting, have students research the purpose and mission of the organization, its members, format of meetings and meeting agendas, and how to request to be placed on the public agenda to speak. Students may ask these questions:

a. What is the purpose of this organization? What decisions or policies does it make? Is it the appropriate venue for our request to change the purpose and management of the school grounds?

b. What is the process for being placed on the agenda to speak? How far in advance must the request be made? To whom is it made? In what format?

c. How long are presenters allowed for their presentation? Will the members ask questions, or simply take the issue under advisement? If the latter, what follow-up might be needed to ensure that the request students are making is actually addressed?

d. What format can be used for presentations? Is there a PowerPoint or other visual option? Or should students plan to bring presentation boards and models to illustrate their presentations? Is that a good idea in any case? Is there an opportunity to meet with the members?

e. Do presenters need someone in the organization to introduce them? Is there someone on the board or council who would be willing to champion the presenters and support them?

  1. Once students understand the organization, format, and make-up of the venue in which they will be presenting, they are ready to refine their presentations.

Part III. The Elements of Persuasive Arguments

  1. Students should have copies of the slides (or notes from each lesson for their presentations) they have created in previous lessons, as well as the Presentation Rubric.

  2. Using the C.A.R.R. framework in this video, have student groups refine their presentations. Include the C.A.R. in the presentations, and use the last R. to prepare for questions that might be asked or objections that could be raised:

a. Clear Position (what do you want your audience to do?)

b. Specific Audience (who are they?)

c. Convincing Reasons (facts and transformative approach).

d. Rebuttal to Your Argument (anticipate objections and criticisms). Make a list of 3 possible questions or objections that might come up from your presentation and give your responses.

  1. Remind students that their presentations need to address the items in the Presentation Rubric, including at least one SDG. They must adhere to the time limit (if any) required. Students may have a couple of extra slides or aspects of their presentation for which they choose the content to make their persuasive, transformative argument.

  2. Student groups will take turns giving their presentations to the class, using the Presentation Rubric as peer feedback to rate the presentations. For each presentation, teachers should designate a different student group to ask at least one question of each group following their presentation.

  3. After each presentation, students should rate it according to the elements of the Presentation Rubric and give constructive feedback to each group. All presentations will have strong elements and can also be improved!

  4. The group with the highest rating could be selected to give their presentation to the organization on behalf of the class. If there is a tie, the teacher could make the decision.

  5. The plans created by the student groups not chosen to give the presentation on behalf of the class can be given to the organization as representation of other ideas considered by the students. Sometimes having more ideas helps decisionmakers understand the issues better and put together implementation options. All students should have their names on their group's plan to claim credit and exhibit pride in their work!

Part IV. Preparing for the Presentation

  1. The student group giving the presentation should practice it several times in front of the class and even before different audiences that are not familiar with the topic. They should take special note of the Presentation Elements part of the Presentation Rubric.

  2. Ask for feedback from these groups and incorporate it into the presentation. All of the student groups should use the feedback to refine their own presentation skills.

Part V. The Presentation

  1. Before the presentation to the leadership organization, remind students that it's important to be on time, dress neatly, and exhibit appropriate behavior for a professional meeting. Enable as many students in the class as possible to attend the meeting to show support for those presenting and also for the proposal. Such support can make a big difference when decisionmakers are evaluating new ideas! And showing respect as a good audience will lead decisionmakers to have a positive impression of the class as well as the presentation and its contents.

  2. During the presentation, students who are not presenting can take notes as to the reactions and comments of the decisionmakers and other audience members.

  3. Back in the classroom, go over this feedback and discuss it as a group. How are the students feeling about their presentation? Make sure to point out the strengths and positive behavior exhibited by the students, both presenters and those in the audience. What actions could be taken next to further the goal of ecological, bioculturally diverse school grounds at the school? Have students make note of these ideas in their journals.

Part VI. Lesson Wrap-Up

  1. Have students open their journals and record their main takeaways from this lesson, including big ideas, relationships, and goals.

  2. Collect the journals to keep for assessment.

Additional Resources


  • Students could use alternative types of presentation for this lesson, such as taking school leaders onto the school grounds to explain their proposal on-site.

In the Next Lesson (L 6.1)

Students will reflect on their participation in this project and consider how they have grown personally, professionally, and as a citizen of the world valuing other cultures.


  • Jennifer Thomas, Turner Middle School

  • Deborah Chabi, Dundee Crown High School