Department of Public Works
Generation Earth for Students: Environmental Education for Teens in Los Angeles County

Plan Your Project

You know you want to do something for the environment, but it's hard to know where to start, right? Environmental service projects are a good answer. Taking part in one of our hands-on, real-world projects makes a difference - you will benefit your community and learn the basic process for any future project, too.

Undertaking an environmental project may seem overwhelming. Over the years we have assisted hundreds of schools and students in creating and completing a wide variety of projects. Based on our experience, we have provided you with a strategy on how to select a project and how to manage the project. You will also learn about reflection - a way to evaluate what you have learned, ideas for projects and what students have to say about participating in a service learning project.

Step One: Audits Step Two: Select a project Step Three: Manage project Step Four: Reflection

Audits are simply an assessment of what is currently happening on your campus. Depending on the focus of your studies, your teacher will ask you to conduct a waste or watershed audit. You don't need to be an "expert" to conduct an audit. All you need is your best observation skills and an inquiring mind. Simply record what you find and look for areas of concern. These areas of concern will be the place to start looking for the focus of your project. Discuss the questions listed in the audit booklet with your class. Do research on the problems identified and look for different types of projects that are solutions to the problems. Based on the results of the audits and your class discussion, start the process of selecting a project.

The Generation Earth program suggests the use of an activity called the Service Project Idea Mapping. This is an activity that will allow you to reflect on what you have learned about environmental issues and using the Idea Map, develop ideas on a poster board. Once all of your groups have completed an Idea Map, you can choose a project that will fit your needs!

In order to complete this activity, you will need approximately 45 minutes and the following materials:

  • Poster paper - 1 per group
  • Colored Markers - 1 set per group
  • Idea Map (both sides) - 1 per group


  1. Use your findings from the audits and reflections about what you have learned to begin a discussion that leads to choosing a service project that could help the school/community.
  2. Break into working groups (about 4-5 students per group).
  3. Distribute an Idea Map to each group. One side gives instructions and the other shows how to set up the poster.
  4. Follow the map and create an idea for a project by illustrating it on poster paper to present to the class (see sample on the back of the map).
    1. Target the Environmental Issue - What have you been studying? What did you find out as a result of the audit? This is listed at the top of their poster.
    2. Project Idea - What ideas do you have for a project that will improve or eliminate the environmental issue? This is stated in the center circle.
    3. Project Goal - This is the goal describing what you want to achieve. A quantifiable goal is easiest to assess. This is listed at the bottom of their poster.
    4. Human Resources - These are your resources. Who can help you to achieve your goal - community organizations, agencies, principal? These are listed in the top right circle.
    5. Supplies and Materials - These are the materials necessary to complete the project. Do any cost money or can they be donated? These are listed in the bottom right circle.
    6. Timeline - This is an estimated timeline. How much time will it take to accomplish and how much time do you have to complete it? Is it a one day or a one month project? This is listed in the top left circle.
    7. The Bigger Picture - This lists the greater impact to the community and the environment. What significance will the project have? This is listed in the bottom left circle.
  5. Once complete, have each group present their ideas to the class.
  6. As a class, looking at the resources, materials, time, and impact on the community, assess and choose which project seems most practical and most exciting to you.

You are now ready to take on the task of planning and following through on an environmental service learning project. With the guidance of your Student Action Guides, you will keep track of your tasks, progress, resources and budget. If you have been selected as a student project manager, a Project Manager Student Action Guide is also available for you. This will assist you in keeping track of timeline, managing other students, and running meetings.

You will need the following materials:

  • The Idea Map for the project
  • Student Action Guide - 1 per student
  • Project Manager Student Action Guide - 1 per student project manager, depends on the project, you may want to have more than 1.
  • Mural paper
  • Colored Markers
  1. Create a "task web" showing all the tasks necessary to complete the chosen service project. Use mural paper to show the tasks. Begin by placing the name of the project in the center of the paper and circling it. Branching out from the center circle place main tasks in circles. Include sub-tasks branching out from each main task, until you have created a large "task web."
  2. Decide who will be responsible for each of the main tasks and list their name next to that task.
  3. Using a calendar, go over the following:
    1. When does the project have to be complete?
    2. How many days/weeks/months do we have until the date?
    3. How often will we need to meet to check in on our progress?
    4. How many meetings do we have until the completion date, and what are those dates?
  4. Using this information, assign a completion date for each main task.
  5. Discuss potential expenses associated with the project. What can be donated? What will need to be funded? How can money be raised?
  6. Pass out a Student Action Guide to each team member and review the different pages.
  7. Team members should fill in their assigned main tasks and sub-tasks, and use the Student Action Guide as a tool to manage their part of the project.
  8. After the project is complete, answer the evaluation questions in the back of the Student Action Guide.
  9. Wrap up the project with a celebration.

Once you have completed your project, it is important to look at what you have learned. Ask yourself the following questions:

What values, opinions or decisions have I made or changed through this experience?

How effective was the project in lessening the impact on the environment?

What would you tell another student about the process of service learning and your experience about it?

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