Sustainability and Kids in the Classroom


Today’s kids are much more aware of the environment and the impact they have on it than their parents. The current generation of elementary and middle schoolers had never known life without Earth Day, curbside recycling programs or a range of other awareness efforts.

Yet there is always room to learn more. As a teacher, how can you incorporate sustainability into the classroom? Sustainability and kids go well together. Below are some examples of successes at teaching sustainability as well as resources you can turn to for your own students.

Definitions and Goals

What is sustainability education? US Partnership, a non-partisan organization whose mission is to integrate sustainable development into education, defines it: “Teaching the interconnection of environment, society and economy.”

According to the Partnership, there are 3 goals to sustainability education:

1. Understanding basic concept of sustainability

2. Understanding human connection to natural world

3. Having the knowledge necessary for improvements

Success Stories

US Partnership recently hosted a webinar with success stories about introducing sustainability into the curriculum.

Will Rogers Middle School, Fair Oaks, CA

This school started with a recycling program and evolved into a total energy-saving mindset. Recent construction was Energy Star rated.  In one project, students took and shared photos of positive sustainability actions. The school hosted a solar car race. Students volunteered at the local watershed to learn about the interconnectedness between people and nature, as well as the importance of water conservation.

Morris Brandon Elementary, Atlanta, GA

Morris Brandon’s Mission statement included an emphasis placed on international understanding and responsible citizenship. As part of that, the school community maintains an organic garden. The Parent Teacher Association donates to Heifer International if students meet reading goals.  Teacher Kelley Jordan-Monne uses the websites and for sustainability lesson plans.

Resources for Teachers

  • The North American Association for Environmental Education offers links lesson plans broken down by grade level.
  • Green Teacher is a magazine devoted to teaching sustainability. The best ideas are collected in the book Teaching Green: The Middle Years.
  • The Concord Consortium offers software and online programs to introduce the concept through its Education for a Sustainable Future program.
  • The EPA has a variety of teacher resources including links to local resources and environmental service projects, and calendars of training events.
  • Greening Schools has suggestions for “greening your lesson plan” divided into subject areas.
  • A2X provides accessible and easy to understand definitions about different alternative energies, as well as a variety of information about ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Introducing sustainability into the classroom is manageable if you know what resources to use. As a teacher, you can engage the kids in lessons that teach them the subject matter and sustainability.