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  • Civic Education for Sustainability



    Sustainability education is a dimension to learning rather than a traditional subject discipline. It is significantly different to other areas of the curriculum as there is no established body of knowledge to master making the boundaries difficult to define. We would suggest that adequate knowledge and understanding to enable students to make good enough decisions is sufficient to support the sustainably literate student. A distinguishing feature of sustainability education is a commitment to care for the well-being of the human and non-human world. Sustainability education raises questions about the things we value, the way we relate to others and the stories we tell ourselves which help make meaning in our lives. Teachers need to be aware that learning about sustainability problems has the potential to be overwhelming. Approaching environmental problems with a positive but grounded approach offers hope for both learners and educators. Thus, it provides an opportunity to develop interactive and participatory learning communities promoting the humanitarian values which underpin a sustainability mindset.


    Students will know that sustainability is a complex global issue with many dimensions, all of which are inter-related and influence the ecosystems on which we depend. 

    They will understand why pupils need to learn about some key issues and the action that can be taken to minimise their harmful impact on the environment.

    Students will have reflected on how to teach pupils about sustainability issues through interactive, participatory activities which make learning more meaningful and encourage their involvement in the community.


    Activity 1.  Ask each student to write down what they think sustainability means in a sentence or short paragraph. Get them to compare their ideas in small groups to work out a group definition.  Share these around the class.  Now introduce the students to two key diagrams (figure 1 below).  Both these diagrams emphasise that sustainability has several dimensions - environment, social and economic.  

    Definitions Figure 1

    Activity 2.  Watch these videos to find out more about what sustainability might mean.


    Activity 3.  Students should discuss the importance of teaching about sustainability. Do they think it is important in all subject areas?  Why should children - future citizens of the world - know about global and local environmental issues?  

    Activity 4: Students will be divided into 17 groups. Each group will discuss one of the goals of sustainable development according to the United Nations – 2015, will give examples and will explain its relevance to everyday's life. Then each group will share their work in front of the classroom.

    Activity 5: Students will suggest experiential and meaningful teaching methods for teaching about sustainability, and will plan activity for school's students.


    Compulsory Literature: 

    Hicks, D (2014) Educating for Hope in Troubled Times. Trentham Books: Stoke-on-Trent 

    Sterling, S. (2001) Sustainable Education: Re-visioning learning and change. Green Books: Totnes 

    Stibbe, A. (ed) (2009). The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy: Skills for a change world Green Books: Totnes. 

    Supporting Literature: 

    Scoffham, S.(2013). Do We Really Need to Know This? The challenge of developing a global learning module for trainee teachers, International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning 5(3): 28-45

    Scoffham, S. (2014) Exploring Sustainability Website. URL:

     Scoffham, S. (2016) Grass Roots and Green Shoots: Building ESD capacity at a UK University, in Challenges in Higher Education for Sustainability. Springer: Switzerland.

     Jones, P., Selby, D. and Sterling, S. (eds) (2010). Sustainability Education: Perspectives and practice across higher education. Earthscan: London.

    UNIT 5: SOCIAL AND POLITICAL DIMENSION -- Topic 3: Safe and Just Environment