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Teacher Resources

Rendering of a teacher at the front of a classroom

Teacher Resources

The Sustainability Teachers’ Academy team is committed to creating and providing curricular resources that span a diverse range of topics—including food systems sustainability, quality of life and well-being, decision-making for sustainability, and much more. Our lessons are applicable for grades 6-9 with variations presented that will enable you to tailor the activity for a younger or older audience.

Sustainability is an interdisciplinary topic, hence our lessons can be used across all class subjects. The resources provided here are part of the broader suite of resources and support that teachers receive when participating in the National Sustainability Teachers’ Academy.


Activities

Bell Ringers

Rendering of two children approaching school

Have a few minutes at the beginning of your class?
Use these mini-activities to jumpstart critical thinking for sustainability.


Mini Debates

Rendering of city street public transportation

Use these lessons on various topics to promote critical debate skills among students considering the three pillars of sustainability (environment, society, economy).

Transportation

Should the city expand public transportation? Could it improve our environment, our society and our economy? This lesson focuses on Phoenix, but can be used as a prompt for research into local public transportation options.
Keywords: urban planning, public transportation

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National Parks

How is our current use of our shared natural areas affecting the land? Should we limit visitation to our National Parks?
Keywords: tourism, conservation, sustainability

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Life Cycle Analysis

Scientists around the world are using Life Cycle Analyses (LCA) to determine the true impact of our products. Use these lessons to begin exploring the life cycle of everyday products and their influence on our environment, society and economy.

The Chicken Nugget

Using system diagrams, explore a chicken nugget as the window to our food systems web. How does a chicken nugget impact our environment, our society and our economy? How does our food decisions impact the lives of people and the planet?
Grades: 5-10
Keywords: food systems, agriculture, waste

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Tap vs. Bottle

Printed cards encourage students to consider and compare the ways we get our drinking water. Can we use LCAs to help us to make more sustainable decisions?
Grades: 6-8
Keywords: water systems, natural resources, waste

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1-2-3 Presentations

Speaker presenting to a group

Use these prompts to spark creative presentations about relevant sustainability issues.


Lessons

Defining Sustainability

What is sustainability? How does it relate to our human needs? Use this lesson to help students define and understand sustainability.
Keywords: introduction, sustainability definitions, basic needs

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A Closer Look at Our Human Footprint

Looking up through a cooling tower

How do we measure our impact on the earth? Use various global trends and graphs to explore our current epoch: the anthropocene.
Grades: 11-12
Keywords: anthropocene, climate change, human impact


A Locust Story

image of a cute artoon locust

How destructive can one insect be? Are we helpless to this environmental force? The answers might surprise you. Explore the latest scientific research on the global impact on our environment, society and economy through this two-day activity.
Grades: 7-10
Keywords: food systems, global sustainability, policy, entomology


Future of a Vacant Lot

city being peeled back to reveal a future park

Can we improve a whole community by improving a vacant lot? Analyze issues related to public spaces, understand how local stakeholders are affected and propose possible solutions for a sustainable community space.
Grades: 9-10
Keywords: stakeholder engagement, socio-economic sustainability, community development


Identifying & Analyzing Sustainability Problems

a persons head formed from garbage

The problems we face are a new class of problems: wicked problems. Use this multi-day unit to begin unraveling sustainability issues and create actions steps to a better future.
Grades: 9-12
Keywords: sustainability introduction, sustainability competencies, sustainable development goals, wicked problems, electronic waste


How to Analyze Sustainability Problems – Food Deserts

‘Food desert’ is a term for urban areas where it is difficult to buy fresh, healthy food. Explore this systemic issue and identify ways to make a difference.
Keywords: problem-solving, unintended consequences, food systems


Our Cities

image of a homeless person sitting on the side of a building

Redlining: Past, Present and Future

Using an online tool, explore how the history of our neighborhoods are part of a larger system of oppression, socio-economically and environmentally.
Grades: 7-12
Keywords: redlining, systemic oppression, path dependence, urban planning

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BYOEC: Build Your Own Equitable City

How do we build a more equitable city? Design your own sustainable city.
Grades: 7-12
Keywords: environmental racism, equity, path dependence, urban planning

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Visualizing Sustainability: PhotoVoice

rendering of people taking pictures with cameras

Encourage students of all ages to explore their thoughts on sustainability through the lens of their own experience. Students take and share photos to discuss their own experiences of sustainability in their community.
Grades: 2-12
Keywords: community development, photography

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Sense & Sustainability

nexus of multicolored points

Where does data come from? Use your oldest data collection tool to understand the roots of science and sustainability.
Grades: 4-8
Keywords: data, introduction, mindfulness


You are Here

image of a you are here sign

Discover and reflect on how your identity and location are intertwined.
Grades: 9-12
Keywords: sense of place, identity, sustainability

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Choosing Sustainability

How do we make sustainable decisions? Explore everyday decisions we face.
Keywords: decision making, human impact

A: Sustainable Grocery Bags

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B: Sustainable Salsa

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Measuring Your Eco Footprint

What is our impact on the planet? Use this lesson to help students understand their ecological footprint and how we can change our impact.


Neighborhoods for Happiness

happy neighborhood

Is there a relationship between sustainability and happiness? What does a sustainable neighborhood look like to you?

Envision a Sustainable Neighborhood

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Zero Food Waste Challenge

zero food waste challenge

Nearly 40% of all food in the United States is wasted. Work together to create a sustainable solution.


Food Systems are Dynamic

How are we connected to our food? Let us count the ways…it might surprise you.
Keywords: food systems, sustainable agriculture, disturbances


Teaching Sustainability with Flash Fiction

open notebook with pen lying on top

Stories connect us to each other and the world around us. Use these data-informed fiction prompts to promote creative science writing.
Keywords: creative writing, climate change, data