Big Ideas Sustainability Poster Blue Border_Page_1

Our world is rapidly changing. Education for Sustainability (EfS) challenges students to prepare for their future today while stimulating academic engagement.

Our current education system and its testing culture leads to one-size fits all teaching, with the most pressing issues of our time relegated to one single Earth Day. What if learning was connected to REAL WORLD issues and opportunities? What if kids learned math, science, ELA, history and technology both IN and OUT of the classroom? What if, as part of the core curriculum, they helped design solutions to make their communities healthier and more sustainable?

The Benefits for Students

Multiple studies demonstrate improvement in student performance and well-being when schools apply EfS principles and practices. Evidence suggests that students: 

  • Learn to engage with and care for their local environment, both in their school buildings and in their local community.
  • Find greater motivation for learning by connecting to real-world issues that matter to them.
  • Develop social and emotional skills like confidence, team work, and leadership.
  • Improve mental and physical health and well-being when spending time in the natural world.
  • Enhance critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills through inquiry- and place-based education.
  • Increased civic engagement and understanding of the ability to make a difference.
  • Improve academic performance in a range of subjects.

A Selection of Research:

Evidence of Impact of Sustainable Schools

Environmental Literacy and Student Performance

Summary of Stanford analysis of environmental education impact, summary of academic benefits and link to journal article

Education for Sustainable Development: Improving Schools, Improving Lives

The Benefits of Place-Based Education

Getting Out Gets Results

National Action Plan for Education for Sustainability

The Benefits for Teachers

In addition to enjoying improved student outcomes as described above, CELF support for integrating sustainability into K-12 curriculum can help teachers by:

  • Demonstrating new and innovative pedagogical strategies that can reinvigorate enthusiasm and motivation for teaching. 
  • Enhancing content knowledge about sustainability issues.
  • Discovering new ways to integrate community and place in lesson plans. 
  • Identifying academic entry points for students who are struggling or who have special needs.
  • Increasing opportunities for use of STEM activities and place-based education to teach the Big Ideas of Sustainability.
  • Earning in-service credits for CELF’s professional development courses per district policies as well as graduate credits for Summer Institutes.