K-12 Sustainability Education Strategies

Overview: This course consists of four units designed specifically for K-12 educators and administrators interested in integrating sustainability education into their classrooms and schools. The course package is designed as an add-on to the Institute's foundation course, Introduction to Sustainability Concepts. However, teachers with a prior knowledge of sustainability topics may enroll independent of the foundation course.

Essential Question: What does sustainability education look like across the nation?

The Big Idea: In the same way that there is no “silver bullet” for the sustainability challenges that humanity faces, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sustainability education. Sustainability literacy will not look the same for any two teachers and sustainability initiatives will vary between schools. Teachers all have unique interests, skill sets, and job requirements. However, the role of education is paramount to creating a sustainable future. We need to guide, help, and learn from one another in order to create a fair and kind society, a healthy and equitable green economy, and to protect and utilize our planet's resources with care. There are fantastic resources available to us, including a vast network of governmental and non-governmental organizations supplying information, curriculum, expertise, sustainable schools programs, award and grant programs for green schools, and national standards for sustainability education. As literacy in sustainability increases, teachers and students develop their ability to adapt and grow in the new green economy. The capacity to adapt and integrate helps both people and governments create solutions and prosper as we address the issues facing this and future generations.

Topics Covered:

  • The integrative practice of sustainability education  
  • The role of systems thinking in sustainability education 
  • National and international support for sustainability education 
  • Sustainable schools and green campus initiatives 
  • National Sustainability Education Standards 
  • K-12 Science Framework 
  • National Social Studies Standards 
  • Ed Steps Global Competence Matrix 
  • Oxfam Global Citizenship Framework 
  • Pedagogy: the learning cycle 
  • Connecting core content topics and sustainability education standards 
  • Developing a sustainability education unit  
  • Developing a school-wide sustainability initiative  
  • Integrated sustainability curriculum 
  • Environmental and physical health
  • School climate and citizenship
  • Place-based learning and service learning 
  • Professional development 
  • Creating a sustainability education plan