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Introduction to Sustainability for Elementary Students

Authored by EcoRise and Representaciones e Inteligencia Sustentable

40 minutes
Primary subjects: 
Environmental Education
Kindergarten, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Average: 5 (3 votes)

This lesson sets the stage for students to develop sustainable intelligence. They begin by playing an interactive game that illustrates how innocent actions can turn into unsustainable practices that impact everyone and the Earth we call home. Students then watch a video and learn what the term sustainability means and begin exploring specific sustainable and unsustainable things they do at school and at home.

Key objectives for students
Define sustainability.
Understand the impact that our lifestyles and choices have on one another and the environment.
Identify ways to live in balance with nature and society.
Secondary subjects
Art, Language Arts, Mathematics, Physical Education, Social Studies
tragedy of the commons, sustainability, Fishing, Environment, Balance
Communication skills, Systems thinking
Curiosity, Empathy, Mindfulness, Optimism, Resilience
Brain-Based Learning, Multi-Disciplinary, Multiple Intelligences, Real-World Application
Background information for teachers

We are living in a time when the world is changing rapidly. It is under stress from a variety of complex and interconnected human and natural influences. This time requires a generation of new leaders to rethink much of what we do—the way we eat, the way we move, the way we build, the way we consume, and even the way we educate. Cultivating new leaders can begin when we take a close look at our actions and their influence on the world and understand how interconnected we are with natural systems. Looking at the long-term well-being of the planet and the people who inhabit it is sustainability thinking. It is giving serious consideration to how we can sustain the health of this wonderful planet we call home.

To help foster sustainability thinking, we must offer students the tools and opportunities they need to reconsider our impact upon the world and tackle complex global environmental challenges. This process begins with each of us recognizing our personal impact on the Earth as well as our responsibility to be a steward of Earth. Next we can cultivate a deeper understanding of how to act sustainably, how to understand our impact on Earth’s systems, and how to balance the dynamic relationship among people, the planet, and profit. With this approach, we can encourage teachers, students, and parents to rethink and redesign human systems and creations to exist in balance with natural systems, and we can create a new generation of leaders—young and old.

A great way to learn how human systems and societies impact the world is to start by taking a close look at local systems, structures, traditions, and geography. By first appreciating what we love about our communities, we can instill a deep connection to the place in which we live. From this sense of connection, we can begin to dream up solutions to local problems and seek out the ways that other communities have successfully addressed similar issues. Then we can begin to find motivation to relate to other people’s perspectives and experiences around the world and a larger sense of responsibility to the Earth.

The goal of this program is to help grow a lifelong commitment to sustainability thinking in ourselves, our students, and our communities. The program helps us become more aware of how human wants and needs impact our planet’s well-being and helps us constantly evaluate whether we are integrating human and natural systems effectively. It also promotes a curiosity to rediscover lost wisdom from ancient traditions, helps us adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, and encourages us to rethink and redesign unsustainable habits and practices.

Most of all, this program teaches us that each of us has the capacity to share ideas, offer creative solutions, and exercise our power to make a difference in this world so that generations to come can look forward to a healthy, sustainable future.

Previous skills needed

Following instructions, cooperative learning skills

In Advance

Read through the lesson in advance—be sure to review the Additional Teaching Tips, too. Choose a location to play the Going Fishing! game. If students will be playing the game in the classroom, prepare the room by pushing desks and chairs to the sides of the room. If students will be playing the game outdoors, use rope or another material to define the “lake” boundaries. The area should be obstacle-free and large enough for students to play a game of tag comfortably while classmates stand around the edges of the space. Determine what you will use to represent money when students “catch” more than two “fish.” Ideally, you would have about 30 play dollar bills or tokens so that you can award one each per extra fish caught.

Set up and test your audiovisual equipment to make sure you can share the embedded video quickly. If you prefer, you can substitute any simple and playful introductory video that shares a message about sustainability and the impact of our actions on our future. You can use the Going Fishing! Data Collection Worksheet to keep track of student progress if you like—print a copy to update during the activity or plan to update it on an electronic device as the activity progresses.

Materials needed
  • Watch or clock with a second hand
  • Play money or a token that can serve as money during the game
  • Audiovisual equipment
Key vocabulary
sustainability, sustain, sustainable, unsustainable, balance
Safety information

Caution students to exercise care during the tag activity so that they do not run into other students or objects.

Time Exercise Description
5 min. Introduction Get students thinking about a simple practice: fishing.
20 min. Going Fishing! Game Students play multiple rounds of the Going Fishing! game.
10 min. Video Students watch a video and learn the term “sustainability.”
5 min. Wrap-Up Help students synthesize what they’ve learned with a final discussion and question/answer session.
  1. Introduction: Begin class by encouraging students to talk about any experience they’ve had in the past around fishing. For example, you could ask: Have any of you ever eaten fish or anything that lives in the water? If you have, where do you think the fish came from? (Sample answers: the market, a restaurant, the grocery store, etc.) Have you ever been fishing before? If so, where did you go fishing? Were you able to catch a fish? Were you able to eat any of the fish you caught?
  2. Ask students: What are some places a person could go to catch a fish? (a river, lake, pond, stream, ocean, etc.) Explain that some bodies of water contain A LOT of fish and so it is easy for a person to catch a fish. But in other areas, it may be more difficult because there aren’t as many fish. In some cases, maybe there used to be a lot of fish, but now there are very few. Ask: Why do you think someplace that used to have a lot of fish might no longer have fish? (Sample answers: People fished too much and caught all the fish; water pollution caused fish to die; the area got too hot or too cold or was overrun with plants or something the fish didn’t like.) Share the sample answers with younger students or if students get stuck.
  3. Ask students if they would like to play a fishing game called “Going Fishing!” now. (Yes!)
  4. Going Fishing! Game: Tell students to imagine a wide, blue lake where fish live in the center of the room/area. Point out the boundaries of the designated area.
  5. Next choose 16 students, and then tell everyone to imagine that these students are fish.
  6. Direct the “fish” to stand in the middle of the lake.
  7. Next, tell students to imagine that this lake is the only source of food for the four families that live nearby. It is wintertime and the families are all extremely hungry. They have only one chance per year to fish at this lake, so it’s very important that they bring home a lot of fish!
  8. Call on four students and tell the class that each of these students is the head of one of the four families that depend on the lake. These students are responsible for catching fish to help their “family” survive and be healthy. Direct each student to a corner of the “lake” and tell them this is their designated homestead area. Each area has a pretend fish pen where any fish they catch can be stored.
  9. Direct the remaining students to stand at the edges of the “lake” for this first round. (They will serve as the next generation of fish during the second round.)
  10. Explain that each “family” will have 15 seconds to fish in the lake. During this time, they can catch up to four fish. For their family to survive, they must catch at least two fish. If they catch more than two fish, they can sell those extras at the market to get money for other things the family needs.
  11. Next explain that if any fish remain in the lake after the 15 seconds are up, those fish can reproduce one time (each round).
  12. Tell students that to “catch” a fish, the family leaders must tag one of the students role-playing a fish and then walk that “fish” over to the fish pen at their homestead. They can catch only one fish at time.
  13. Explain that this is like a game of tag with the fish trying not to get caught. Everyone must stay within the boundaries of the lake. Remind the heads of families that they can catch up to four fish. It’s possible that they won’t catch any fish! They need to catch at least two fish to keep their family healthy and if they catch any more than two fish, they can sell those extras. Once a head of household catches four fish, he or she must stop fishing and go “home.”
  14. Start the first 15-second round, enlisting the bystander students to help you make sure that heads of household and fish stay within the boundaries of the lake.
  15. When 15 seconds have passed, identify whether any heads of household caught more than two fish. Pay them using a designated amount of play money or a token for each extra fish they caught.
  16. Next, count how many fish remain in the lake and add one new student (who hasn’t played yet) into the lake for every fish that remains. Tell any heads of household who caught zero or one fish that this is sadly not enough food for their family to survive, so they must move to another area. (They are out of the game.)
  17. Play another 15-second round. At this point, you may want to switch students’ roles so that everyone has a chance to play either a fish or a head of household. See also the Additional Teaching Tips for variations you could apply to make the game more interesting or adapt it for older students.
  18. After everyone has participated in the game for at least two consecutive rounds, have the class sit in a circle on the floor to talk about what happened.
  19. Video: Show the class the following video about sustainability.

  20. Write the word SUSTAINABLE on the board and ask if anyone knows what that word means. Write the students’ ideas on the board. Then explain that sustainable means that something is in a healthy state and can last for a long, long time. It will be around for you, and for the kids you have when you grow up, and for the kids they have, too. A sustainable river or lake is one that always has healthy, happy fish and water creatures living in it. Point to a plant in the classroom or outside, and ask if that plant would be able to survive if it no longer got any water. (No!) What would happen if there were no water for you to drink? Would you survive? (No!) People, plants, and all organisms on Earth need certain things like water to sustain us, or keep us alive.

  21. Ask students: What did we learn about sustainability from the fishing game? (Sample answer: We have to be careful or we can use up all the resources in the lake and a lot of people will go hungry.) Emphasize that it is sometimes easy for us to get caught up in catching the most fish, being the best at something, or earning the biggest prize, like money. We have to be careful, though, to remember that the things we do impact other people and the environment.
  22. Explain that places in nature like forests, lakes, oceans, and rivers all need certain things to be able to be sustainable, or to be able to stay healthy for years and years to come. Tell students to think about what they learned about fish and the lake and then consider: What kinds of things do you think might make it difficult for a forest to stay healthy? (Sample answers: People cutting down too many trees at once, people dumping their trash in the forest, etc.) Explain: Trees need resources like fresh air and water to live, and animals need trees to live in and to eat from. So it’s also important that we protect the air and the water resources trees need, right? (Yes!) Explain that in the video we saw the great ruler in the video make changes to help improve sustainability—he switched from polluting power plants to wind and solar plants, for example. Encourage students to share any other thoughts they have about a particular environment and what it needs to be sustainable.
  23. Wrap-Up: Encourage students to summarize what they think the word sustainable means now. Revise any incorrect earlier definitions you wrote on the board and add new, accurate updates. Ask if students have any questions. Then end by sharing that it feels really good to do sustainable things because it’s easy and fun and it helps keep our planet healthy!
Additional teaching tips

There are a number of ways you can adapt the game to make it last longer, teach additional sustainability lessons, or make it more exciting for older students. The following are some suggestions as well as reflection questions to help students process what they learn:

  • Based on the ability of your class, you can extend the time of the rounds and/or the number of fish a head of household could catch so that all the fish can be caught within one round. This can lead to a discussion of overfishing: with no fish left for the next year, everyone must move just to survive. Use questions such as the following to stimulate conversation:
    • What happened to the game when all the fish were taken? (It ended.)
    • How did you feel when all the fish were gone? (Sample answers: sad, angry, mad, disappointed, etc.)
    • Was everyone trying to catch as many fish as possible? (yes)
    • Was your goal to catch as many fish as possible in order to make extra money? (yes)
    • Did it occur to you that you might have to move if you took all the fish from the lake? (No!)
  • Pull the fish aside and secretly encourage them to work together, like a real school of fish that moves in a group. Explain that by moving as a group they can help protect one another because the heads of household can catch only one fish at a time. This can lead to a discussion about how much hard work it can take to fish in nature because of the way fish work together. Use questions such as the following to stimulate conversation:
    • How did it feel to be on the outside of the school of fish, as an easy target? (Sample answer: Not fair but kind of fun.)
    • How did it feel to work together as a group to protect one another? Did it work? (Sample answer: Yes! It worked really well for the fish on the inside of the group.)
    • Was it harder for the heads of household to catch the fish they needed to feed their families? (Sample answer: Yes—they each caught only one or two fish.)
  • Introduce a mega-trawler fishing boat into the game. Explain that a mega-trawler is a giant fishing boat designed to help a fisherperson catch as many fish as possible at once. Tell one of the heads of household that you are giving him or her a (pretend) mega-trawler. This boat allows the fisherperson to tag and catch as many fish as possible at once. Because the fish can be stored in the boat, they don’t need to be put in the pen right away and there are no limits to how many fish can be caught. Any fish caught by this head of household should drop to the ground until the 15 seconds are over. Use this variation as an opportunity to discuss how trawling boats can be extremely destructive because they can wipe out a fish population and make it more difficult for them to survive to reproduce. They also make it more difficult for other families to compete for limited resources when they can catch only one fish at a time. Use questions such as the following to stimulate conversation:
    • How did it feel to have the mega-trawler enter the game? (Sample answer: It didn’t feel fair. That head of household had such a huge advantage that the rest of us were barely able to catch any fish!)
    • How did the advantage of the mega-trawler affect your ability to keep playing? (Sample answer: It ended the game very quickly because there were no fish left!)
    • How might this be similar to what happens in real life? (Sample answer: When some people have big advantages over most people, all those other people will have a hard time catching as many fish. The fish will also have trouble surviving if so many get caught at one time.)_
Reflection Questions

Use the following questions to prompt critical thinking and guide students to reflect about the lesson:

  • It’s always tempting, as in the fishing game, to “win” by getting the most of something. Why isn’t this always a good idea? (Sample answer: Because other people and/or the environment can be hurt when one person or group thinks only about its own immediate needs.)
  • What did the fishing activity teach you about why it’s important to think beyond what is happening right now and into the effects our actions might have in the future? (Sample answers: If we catch all the fish, there won’t be any for us in the future. We have to be careful not to use too much of something so that it can stay healthy and continue into the future.)
  • What are some things you do here at school and at home that are sustainable? (Sample answers: We recycle; we fish for only one fish at a time; we don’t put more food on our plate than we can eat at one time.)
  • What are some things you do here at school and at home that are unsustainable? (Sample answers: We throw away things that could be recycled; we ride in cars when we could walk; we buy lots of things we really don’t need and then throw them away.)
  • How can we make a difference in helping to create a sustainable world? (Sample answer: We can learn more about how the things we do impact other people and the environment. We can make decisions based upon not just how something helps us right now, but also how it impacts other people and the environment in the future.)
  • If you were to play the fishing game again right now, what would you do differently? (Sample answer: I’d work with the other heads of household and determine in advance that we were all going to get only two or three fish.)
  • What does it mean to show “sustainable intelligence?” (Sample answer: It means to show that I am thinking about how what I do impacts other people and the Earth, so I should make choices that won’t harm anyone now or later.)
Assessment Opportunities

Use the Going Fishing! Data Collection Worksheet to observe and record student participation in the Going Fishing! Game. The Reflection Questions on the Assess tab provide a great way to assess students’ understanding of key concepts from the lesson. The ideas offered on the Extend tab offer additional opportunities to observe and assess students’ understanding of the topic.

Standards assessment

This lesson, with all components included, is linked to the following standards:

Common Core State Standards (CCSS):
RF.K.1b–d, RF.K.2a, RF.K.3a–d, RF.K.4, W.K.2, W.K.5, SL.K.1a–b, SL.K.2–6, L.K.1a–f, L.K.2c, L.K.4a–b, L.K.5a, L.K.6
Grade 1: RI.1.1–3, RI.1.10, RF.1.1a, RF.1.2a, RF.1.3a–g, RF.1.4a–c, W.1.1, W.1.2, W.1.5, W.1.7, SL.1.1a–c, SL.1.2–6, L.1.1a–j, L.1.2a–e, L.1.4a, L.1.5a–d, L.1.6
Grade 2: RI.2.1–3, RI.2.10, RF.2.3a–f, RF.2.4a–c, W.2.1, W.2.5, W.2.7, SL.2.1a–c, SL.2.2–6, L.2.1a–f, L.2.2a–e, L.2.3a, L.2.4a, L.2.5a–b, L.2.6
Grade 3: RI.3.4, RI.3.10, RF.3.3a–d, RF.3.4a–c, W.3.1a–d, W.3.2a–d, W.3.4–6, SL.3.1a–d, SL.3.2–6, L.3.1a–I, L.3.2a–f, L.3.3a–b, L.3.4a–c, L.3.5a–b, L.3.6
Grade 4: RI.4.4, RI.4.10, RF.4.3a, RF.4.4a–c, W.4.1a–d, W.4.2a–e, W.4.4–6, SL.4.1a–d, SL.4.2–6, L.4.1a–g, L.4.2a–d, L.4.3a–b, L.4.4a–c, L.4.5a–c, L.4.6
Grade 5: RF.5.3a, RF.5.4a–c, RI.5.7, W.5.1a–d, W.5.2a–e, W.5.4–9, W.5.10, SL.5.1a–d, SL.5.2–6, L.5.1a–e, L.5.2a–e, L.5.3a–b, L.5.4a–c, L.5.5 a–c, L.5.6
Grade 6: RI.6.7, W.6.1a–e, W.6.2a–f, W.6.4–9, W.6.10, SL.6.1a–d, SL.6.2–6, L.6.1a–e, L.6.2a–b, L6.3a–b, L.6.4a–d, L.6.5 a–c, L.6.6, RH.6-8.1–8, RST.6-8.3, RST.6-8.6, WHST.6-8.2a–d, WHST.6-8.4–10

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS):

From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes: K-LS1-1
Earth’s Systems: K-ESS2-2
Earth and Human Activity: K-ESS3-2, K-ESS3-3
Grade 1:
From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes:1-LS1-1
Grade 2:
Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity: 2-LS4-1
Grade 3:
Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity: 3-LS4-4
Grade 4:
Earth and Human Activity: 4-ESS3-1
Grade 5:
From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes: 5-LS1-1
Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics: 5-LS2-1
Earth and Human Activity: 5-ESS3-1
Grade 6: MS-ESS3-3, MS-ETS1-1, MS-ETS1-2

Cloud Education for Sustainability (EfS) Standards & Performance Indicators:
A1, A4, A8, B8, B10, B12, C1, C4, D2–6, E4, E6, F1, F4, G1, G5–7, G34, H3, H7, H9, H11, I27, I28, I34
Grades 3–12: A1, A4, A7, A8, B7, B9, B10, B13, C4, C6, C13–16, C18, C23, C28, C29, C34, C37, D7, E2, E4, F1, F3, F4, G1, G5–7, G34, H5, H7, H11, I20, I21, I37, I38

Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS):
§112.11.b.1.B,C, §112.11.b.2.A,B,E, §112.11.b.4.B, §112.11.b.5.A, §112.11.b.7.C, §112.11.b.9.B, §112.11.b.10.A, B, D
Grade 1: §112.12.b.1.A,B,C, §112.12.b.2.A,C,D,E, §112.12.b.4.B, §112.12.b.5.A, §112.12.b.9.B
Grade 2: §112.13.b.1.A,B,C, §112.13.b.2.A,B,D,E, §112.13.b.3.A,B,C, §112.13.b.4.A, §112.13.b.5.A, B, §112.13.b.7.B, §112.13.b.9.A, C
Grade 3: §112.14.b.1.A, B, §112.14.b.2.A,B,D,F, §112.14.b.3.A,B, §112.14.b.4.A, §112.14.b.4.B, §112.14.b.9.A,B
Grade 4: §112.15.b.1.A, B, §112.15.b.2.A,B,D,F, §112.15.b.3.A, §112.15.b.4.A, §112.15.b.7.C, §112.15.b.9.A
Grade 5: §112.16.b.1.B, §112.16.b.2.B, C, E, F, §112.16.b.3.A, B, C, §112.16.b.4.A, §112.16.b.9.A,C
Grade 6: §112.18.b.1.B, §112.18.b.2.B, C, E, F, §112.18.b.3.A, B, §112.18.b.4.A, §112.18.b.7.B

Estándares Secretaría de Educación Pública (México):
LIT.PE.1.1, PLIT.PE.1.8, 1.9, PTE.PE.2.2, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, PCO.PE.3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, 3.8, 3.12, 3.13, FUL.PE.4.1, 4.2, AL.PE.5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.7
Ciencias: CC.PE.1.2, 1.10, ACT.PE.2.1, 2.4, HC.PE.3.2, 3.3, 3.6, 3.7, AC.PE.4.2, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 4.7, 4.8

Primero y segundo primaria
LIT.PB.1.1, 1.6, PTE.PB.2.1, 2.4, 2.5, 2.9, 2.10, PCO.PB.3.1, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, FUL.PB.4.1, AL.PB.5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.7, 5.8
Ciencias: CC.PB.1.6, ACT.PB.2.3, HC.PB.3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.5, AC.PB.4.1, 4.3–4.7

Tercero de primaria
LIT.PB.1.1, 1.3, 1.6, 1.7, 1.12, PTE.PB.2.1, 2.2, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 2.8, 2.9, 2.10, PCO.PA.3.1–3.5, FUL.PB.4.1, 4.4, 4.7, AL.PB. 5.2–5.4, 5.7, 5.8
Ciencias: CC.PB.1.3, ACT.PB.2.4, HC.PB.3.2, 3.3, 3.5, AC.PB.4.1, 4.2, 4.4, 4.6, 4.7

Cuarto de primaria
LIT.PA.1.1, 1.2, 1.5, 1.15, PTE.PA.2.1–2.4, 2.10, PTOPCO.PA.3.1–3.4, 3.8, FUL.PA.4.1–4.4, AL.PA. 5.2, 5.4, 5.5, 5.9, 5.10
Ciencias: CC.PA.1.3, ACT.PB.2.1, HC.PB.3.2, 3.6, AC.PA.4.3, 4.6, 4.8

Community connections

Invite parents and guardians to the classroom and repeat the lesson. You could have the adults participate in a walking version of the tag activity or watch their children play the game. Then show the video and encourage a discussion session, soliciting feedback from the students as well as their parents or guardians. If possible, have a teaching assistant take pictures to post in the classroom later as a reminder that we can work with our families to achieve sustainability goals.


Adapt the game as necessary to include students with disabilities. For example, you could allow extra room for a wheelchair to navigate in the “lake” area. You could also encourage visually or hearing impaired students to participate as fish or heads of household, but give them an opportunity to navigate the space in advance or practice with the class first before the game begins. You could also give students a special role such as timekeeper or manager of a fish pen. In addition, you could allow students to watch the video on their own at their own pace and with subtitles or headphones as necessary.

Cross disciplinary connections

Language Arts

  • Write the word “sustainability” on the board. Then break that one word into two smaller words: “sustain” and “ability.” Ask students to call out words that come to mind when they think of what the term “sustain” means. (Sample answers: support, protect, last, endure, promote, hold, supply, balance) Write their answers on the board. Then ask students to call out words or phrases that come to mind when they think of what the term “ability” means. (Sample answers: being able to do something, fit, capable, strong) Then work with the class to use those words to come up with a class definition for sustainability. (Sample answer: Sustainability is being able to last a long time.) For students who are learning English, you could have them do this same activity in their native language and then in English.
  • Give older students an opportunity to practice their writing skills with a timed journal-writing activity. Write a short phrase on the board such as, “The reason we should think sustainably is…” Then give students 5 minutes or so to write a short journal entry about the importance of sustainable living and how the way we live our lives impacts our planet.


Use the Going Fishing! Data Collection Worksheet to tally the results of the activity each round. Then use the data to show students basic math operations. For example, you could ask: “We started with 16 fish in the lake. After 4 heads of household removed 2 fish each from the lake, how many fish remained? Students could add 2 fish for each head of household to arrive at 8 fish and then subtract 8 from 16 to get 8 fish remain in the ocean. You could also demonstrate multiplication by saying 2 fish x 4 heads of household = 8 fish. The activity also allows you get students thinking about fractions. You could point out that 8 + 8 = 16, so if you removed 8 fish and had 8 remaining, you removed half of the available fish.


Divide the class into small groups and give each group a selection of arts and crafts materials. Ask them to use those materials to create a picture of what they imagine a sustainable world looks like. Then give them a clean sheet of paper and ask them to use the materials to create a picture of what the same area might look like in the future if we don’t think sustainably. As students are creating, walk around and assist by helping them recall things they learned about what helps an environment last and what types of actions or events cause an environment to get out of balance. Then post the before and after pictures on a bulletin board under the heading “The Importance of Thinking Sustainably” or dividing them under two heads: “Sustainable”/”Unsustainable.”

Cultural adaptation notes
  • Be careful not to overload students with too much negative information about the environment or tax them with problems they cannot possibly address. One of the best ways to foster sustainability thinking is to help students appreciate and value the wonderful resources Earth provides. Avoid gloom-and-doom scenarios and instead maintain an upbeat attitude about what students can do to show their love, respect, and appreciation for the Earth.
  • Be sensitive to common cultural practices or industries in your area that are unsustainable. For example, some of the students’ parents may work in an industry that is known for having unsustainable practices. Emphasize the importance of becoming aware of sustainable versus unsustainable practices and looking for ways to transition from unsustainable to sustainable. Discourage students from judging and criticizing one another or their families. Most of us have an impact on the world around us. By becoming aware of that impact we can make choices here and there that can go a long way toward living more harmoniously with the planet.
  • Keep in mind as you teach this course that Sustainable Intelligence is an international program that includes examples from all over the world. It’s a good idea to personalize each lesson by adding examples that are relevant to your community or region. You can also help students internalize lessons with exploratory questions related to the topic (e.g., What if…? How might we...? Why don't we…?). You can also take advantage of the fact that this is an international program by connecting your students to students in other parts of the world to share experiences they have related to different Sustainable Intelligence lessons. One tool you could use to facilitate this connection is PenPal Schools.
Professional Development Opportunities

Looking for support? EcoRise offers relevant, engaging, year-round professional development and can connect you to active networks of veteran teachers and green professionals. We also provide access to grant opportunities to help fund your students' campus sustainability projects. You can learn more at ​


Mon, 08/28/2017 - 16:13

Almut Stephan Marino


This was a fantastic lesson that I taught 2-5th graders. In the end they came of with a definition of sustainability for the whole school and created a poster with this message: "Sustainability is when we do what it takes to keep something going, alive, healthy, safe and clean for a long time into the future so that there will always be enough of everything that everyone, everywhere needs to lead a good life in peace"
1. Take only as much as you need. Be a good citizen and conserve.
2. Take good care of what you have. Be a good steward.
3. Refuse | Reduce | Reuse | Reclaim | Repair | Repurpose | Redistribute | Recycle | Rot.
Think of the future.
I am thinking about how what I do impacts other people and the Earth, so...
I will make choices that won’t harm anyone now or later. The Earth serves us and we must serve the Earth

After that, one fourth grade class wrote a play with 3 scenes and presented it to all kindergarten and first grade students at the early childhood center. It was spectacular.

Wed, 03/31/2021 - 09:00

Joe Mar D. Salinas


Very Insightful topic!

Wed, 03/31/2021 - 09:00

Joe Mar D. Salinas


Very Insightful topic!