Why Should Sustainability Matter to Every Educator?
Updated: May 11
Besides the obvious... you know... "let's not have the world end" reasonings... sustainability matters in education. I may be ahead of policy right now, but soon, if not already, it will be realized that it needs to be apart of everyday education from all levels of education policy.
A lot of times educators are caught up in their “required” curriculum. Most of the innovation in lessons and topics is stifled by this wall of required standards that teachers struggle to complete every year. But, knowledge is power, and when you can back up your actions with academic research and current school initiatives, you’d be surprised at the support you could receive.
Have you ever wanted to bring in sustainability into the classroom but struggled to justify it?
I will mention a few weapons you can store in your armory when it comes to making waves in education. Maybe you are the first teacher who cares about sustainability in your school, maybe this is totally new and you need justification for your time and effort,
maybe you just like facts and global initiatives! Whatever the reason, understanding the “why” behind "why should sustainability matter to every educator" will help you open
your mind to being innovative and ambitious in your learning environment, and your students get to benefit!
Sustainability in education is nothing new, it is likely it was taught informally for decades before it became an official plan in 1992 at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro. It was here where ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ was formally approved and set the foundation for many more important initiatives. But that was in 1992, what about now?
Today, the UN still is still working on this and the plan has been revised and renamed to Agenda 2030, so if you hear that term, “Agenda 2030” you now know it is referring to a global plan to create sustainable living conditions for all by the year 2030. How will that happen? With 17 special goals and 169 targets, but we will get to that in another post! For now, I will guide you to some resources that you can explore on your own time to realize the impact you can have on the future by bringing these concepts into your curriculum.
There is a plethora of evidence that sustainability can and should be implemented into your curriculum, no matter what age or subject you teach, but for now, I will touch on three examples.
If you teach younger children or primary, you can skim through ‘Early childhood education for sustainability’’ by Julie Davis.
If you are a middle or high-school science teacher, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (which are now required by 20 US states and counting) have sustainability integrated into the requirements.
For all educators, you can explore ‘Education for Sustainable Development: A Systemic Framework for Connecting the SDGs to Educational Outcomes’ by Vasiliki Kioupi and Nikolaos Voulvoulis. It bridges the gap between the goals for Agenda 2030 and the outcomes YOU strive for with your students.
Start off skimming the resources provided here and start building your arsenal of evidence to back up your choices in your learning environment. Don’t let tradition, habits, and attitudes in your work environment hinder this opportunity to be an innovative educator. The world needs people like you, and the future depends on it!
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Anne E. Egger, Kim A. Kastens & Margaret K. Turrin (2017) Sustainability, the Next Generation Science Standards, and the Education of Future Teachers, Journal of Geoscience Education, 65:2, 168-184, DOI: 10.5408/16-174.1
Davis, Julie. (2010). Early childhood education for sustainability: why it matters, what it is, and how whole centre action research and systems thinking can help.
Kioupi, Vasiliki, and Nikolaos Voulvoulis. “Education for Sustainable Development: A Systemic Framework for Connecting the SDGs to Educational Outcomes.” Sustainability, vol. 11, no. 21, 2019, p. 6104., doi:10.3390/su11216104.