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January 17, 2019

Learning Gateways: Environmental policy jigsaw

Estimated Time

30-45 minutes, homework assignment

Grade Level         

Secondary, but adaptable for other levels


This lesson serves as a review of important environmental laws and their impact not only on society as a whole, but in the everyday lives of students. This jigsaw is presented as a classroom discussion, but it could be modified into a written exercise for homework.

This teaches students to:

  • Analyze the historical significance of environmental legislation;
  • Consider how historical environmental legislation might impact present circumstances;
  • Appreciate the significance of environmental history in their own lives;
  • Appreciate and articulate the importance of the rule of law for protecting the environment.


  • Access to the internet, or materials for research
  • List of legislation to be studied and discussion questions, printed on handout or displayed in the classroom


Note: This activity assumes students have a basic understanding of the concept of environmental law, and the existence of relevant federal policy and international standards.

Split students into six small groups, and assign each group a significant environmental policy to research:

Federal policy in the United States

International agreements

Each group should research and report on the following:

  • What is the policy and what was its purpose or goal?
  • What are the most important things that people should know about the policy?
  • When was the policy enacted? How might it affect your community today?

Involve a Legal Professional

  • Ask a local attorney or judge to talk with your students about their experiences with environmental law.  For assistance, contact your local or state bar association for a possible referral.
  • Invite a local police officer or city official to talk with your students about the environmental-related regulations in your community.
  • Contact your local EPA office or sustainability organization to see if an official might be able to talk with your students about environmental issues in your community.