Built for Teachers

Welcome to the Family Car website for teachers! The resources provided here are available to all teachers and we invite you to use them in whatever ways work for you and your students.

The Family Car lesson is designed to be taught in a single class session. There are some very specific pieces of information that we would like every student to learn, and these are listed below under Key Messages. Beyond that there are no “rules” for this program! The skill and creativity of ESL teachers go beyond anything we could design, and much of the material on this site has developed from input provided by teachers that have used the lesson.

If your ESL program is participating in our grant-funded project, we have additional resources for you. We will furnish you with all the student books you need, as well as pens, realia, overheads, and other supplies. We also pay teachers for your time to complete a class record form each time the class is taught. Please contact us to learn more about our funded project areas.

Since our initial state grant was completed in early 2007, we have been able to continue the project in most areas with local grant funding. Most of these funds are derived from state grants, from the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle). CalRecycle funds such projects from money that is collected on the sale of motor oil in California; for every gallon of oil that is sold, 24 cents is set aside to be used toward used oil and oil filter recycling programs. Our project introduces information about recycling used motor oil and filters to an audience shown by CalRecycle research to be most likely to improperly dispose of used oil: newcomers.

We have analyzed data from the hundreds of classes that have been taught. The rate of recycling of used oil is significantly higher in the communities where “The Family Car” lesson is in use. During the first year the lesson was in use, this amounted to an estimated 100,000 gallons of oil recycled that would otherwise have polluted the environment. Subsequent analysis shows that the rate of recycling continues to increase where the lesson is taught.

More information is available in the PDF document  final report for the state grant.

Key Messages

The goal of the Family Car ESL lesson is to communicate important environmental information to your students while at the same time offering you resources that are helpful in teaching English. We know that the comprehension level of your students varies greatly. Also, while some teachers use this lesson as part of a larger focus on the environment, others may not choose to do so. Here are the key messages that we hope every student will understand after participating in the Family Car lesson:

  • Used motor oil and filters must be recycled. Any other type of disposal- in the trash, down a drain, on the ground- is illegal and is hazardous to human health and the environment. The fine for illegal dumping is up to $10,000.
  • Recycling used oil and filters is easy and free. Ideally, we hope that every student leaves the class with specific knowledge of a place where he/she can take oil and filters for recycling. At the least, every student should understand how to use the information provided to find the nearest recycling location.
  • Used oil and filters must be handled properly to avoid spilling and to comply with the law. Oil should be stored in a plastic container with a screw-top. Filters should be transported in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Now that students understand about recycling used oil and filters, we hope that they will be motivated to tell others in their communities.

Key Messages

You may also download these messages in a pdf document.

Other Used Oil Information

Here are some other details that we would like students to know if time and ability permit:

  • Take oil and filters to used oil recycling centers only when the centers are open for business. The majority of recycling locations are businesses or government-operated facilities that are open during regular business hours. Leaving oil after hours is considered illegal dumping and is subject to a fine.
  • Never mix used oil with anything else, even water. If oil is mixed with fluids such as gasoline or antifreeze it cannot be recycled and must be taken to a hazardous waste facility.
  • When changing oil avoid getting drips or spills on the ground or pavement. Clean up any spills with rags or an absorbent such as cat litter. A little bit of oily absorbent can go in the trash but a saturated rag or cleanup from a large spill should be taken to a hazardous waste facility. Information about local hazardous waste facilities is included in the local resources pages on this site.

Integrating the Family Car Lesson into Your Program

Teachers have used the Family Car lesson for every level of adult ESL class. The lesson book includes 3 levels of the story, appropriate for students ranging from beginning to high-intermediate. Teachers of low beginning and advanced students have also used the materials successfully.

We hear from teachers who have used elements of the lesson to work on vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, speaking, conversation, critical thinking, writing… You name it!

The lesson has also been successfully integrated into EL Civics programs. EL Civics objectives that may fit well include Community Resources (including Directory, Security, Volunteers, DMV); Employment (Safety); Law; and Environment.


Take a look at the Lesson Materials. Or see what our Teachers have contributed as tips, games, activities and other resources. Or maybe you would like to see what related Web Resources we have to share.

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