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Grade Level:  6-12

Students will learn about scenic conservation, visual clutter, and what defines community by analyzing points of debate surrounding some society’s most hotly debated issues.  They will choose and support a stand on the issue during a round of philosophical chairs.


  • Scenic America Principles of Scenic Conservation #6: Teach young people to value the visual environment and to create and respect places of beauty.
  • Analyze points of debate around various issues surrounding scenic conservation.
  • Choose and support a stand on the issue of scenic conservation.

Vocabulary:  claim, evidence, reasoning, visual pollution,


  • Chart paper, chalkboard, or whiteboard
  • Markers or chalk for discussion board
  • Philosophical Chairs Reflection Sheet printable
  • Copies of the chosen current event article pertaining to topic, one per student
  • Post-It notes or scrap paper
  • Pencils
  • Philosophical Chairs Discussion Assessment Chart printable
  • Optional:Computers for online research

Teacher Preparation:

  1. Set up your classroom for the “Philosophical Chairs” discussion. Have one designated area for students who agree with the topic. Directly across from the “agree” area should be a “disagree” area. In between the two should be a section for students who are neutral on the issue.
  2. Select a debate topic from the options included in this curriculum guide and current event article which discusses the topic.
  3. Write the topic/issue on a piece of chart paper or the chalkboard/whiteboard you are planning to use during the discussion.
  4. Make a class set of the Philosophical Chairs “Rules of Engagement” printable to review with the students prior to the discussion.
  5. Print copies of the Philosophical Chairs Reflection Sheet printable.
  6. Print a copy of the Philosophical Chairs Discussion Student Assessment Rubric printable for your own use. Note: The chart has rows for 14 students. You will need to print a second copy to accommodate the number of students in your class.
  7. Instruct students to read the current event article you chose about the topic prior to conducting the discussion.


  1. Inform students that they will discuss the assigned reading with an activity called Philosophical Chairs. Essentially, Philosophical Chairs is a means of debating an issue. Students will respond to a question and be divided into groups based on their responses. They will then discuss their reasons for their answers.
  2. Reveal the topic to students.
  3. Provide each student with a Post-it Note or small piece of paper and instruct them to write down their name followed by their stance on the issue. They should write “agree,” “disagree,” or “neutral.”
  4. Collect student slips and position students in their chosen areas (agree, disagree, or neutral).
  5. Select one student to start the discussion by stating why they chose their particular stance on the issue.
  6. Throughout the discussion, take notes on students’ participation using the Philosophical Chairs Discussion Assessment Rubric printable.
  7. Continue with a detailed debate with students explaining why they have taken one of the three positions.
  8. At the conclusion of the discussion, have students complete the Philosophical Chairs Reflection Sheet printable.


  • Use the Philosophical Chairs Discussion Assessment Chart to rate the quality and quantity of each students’ contribution to the discussion.
  • Review students’ completed Philosophical Chairs Reflection Sheet printable.


  • You may want to review the current event article about your topic with your struggling students prior to the Philosophical Chairs discussion. Nonetheless, because this activity is strongly based on voicing opinions and listening actively, it is accessible to all learners.


  • Ask students to conduct online research to find texts and examples that either support their position on the issue or bring new information to the discussion.
  • Have students get the perspective of their parents on the topic discussed in class in order to prepare for writing their position papers.