Interested in teaching your students about the environment? Do you want to simulate deeper thinking about social justice issues? Do you want to learn how to actively engage a wider range of people in group reflections? This is the exercise for you!

Rubbertown Documentary Group Reflection Guidelines


Watch the documentary Rubbertown directed by Remington Smith. This is free to watch with Amazon Prime. The film is 55 minutes long and is rated PG, so it is most appropriate for high school students and older. After the film, review expectations for a reflection with your group. Below are commonly used rules for productive discussion.

General Rules for Reflection:

  1. Step Up, Step Back. Be aware of how much you’re speaking. If you notice you are speaking more than others, take a step back and let others sleep. If you find yourself not talking, take a step up and contribute your own comments, ideas, or suggestions.
  2. Lean into discomfort. Some topics are challenging to talk about. Be willing to experience some discomfort in discussions, and learn from it. Why is it an uncomfortable topic?
  3. Don’t “yuck my yum.” Diverse groups have lots to offer, including different opinions and tastes. When group members share their likes and dislikes, respect their personal opinions and preferences.

How to facilitate meaningful discussions at different group sizes:

Groups of 15 and under: Begin with each person introducing him/herself and sharing one initial reaction to the film. This will help you get a feel for what your group’s major take-away was from the film. Start discussion questions around what was already mentioned, and chose questions that flow naturally from there.

Groups of 15 to 40: Begin with raising hand exercises. Ask your group to raise their hand if they had ever heard of the topic or place. Begin with surface level questions or definitions and delve into deeper discussion naturally. Allow members to raise their hands to give their opinions.

Groups 40+: Break into smaller groups of around 15 members and designate one person to lead the reflection questions. Follow rules for groups of 15 and under.

The Questions:

  • By a show of hands, how many of you all have heard of Rubbertown?
  • What are some initial reactions to the film?
  • $1000 waivers were signed by homeowners to keep them quiet about the environmental burdens they were facing.
    • Do you feel as though you would do the same thing if you were offered $1000 and likely living in poverty?
  • Do the people in this film have the choice to value their health? Or are they stuck in their situation?
  • If you could not afford to leave your house without selling it, do you think you would tell the future buyer about the environmental hazards?
  • Based on this film, do you believe that people of a lower socio-economic class are more susceptible to environmental burdens?
    • Have you seen any other instances in your hometown, where you have traveled, or in Lexington?
  • Environmental Justice: the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
    • Are the people in Rubbertown being served environmental justice?
  • There was a net placed on the border between the neighborhood and the industrial site. Do you think the people who places the net there believe is prevented pollution from entering the neighborhood?
    • Why do you think they spent money to put the net there?
  • The first newspaper article about this issue was published in 1950. Why do you think this problem has yet to be solved?
  • The people who work at the chemical plants do not like in the same area. Do you believe this is intentional?
  • Do you believe it really is too difficult to pin one company for the entirety of pollution in the area, like the movie suggests?

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Tags: Kentucky, Louisville, documentary, environment, environmental, justice, reflection, social


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