What is Education for Sustainability? - Children's Environmental Literacy Foundation

What is Education for Sustainability?

According to the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, Education for Sustainability (EfS) is “the content, learning methods, and outcomes that help students develop a knowledge base about the environment, the economy, and society. [EFS] helps students learn skills, perspectives, and values that guide and motivate them to seek sustainable livelihoods, participate in a democratic society, and live in a sustainable manner.” (McMillan & Higgs, 2003)

As Dave Sobel, a leading scholar in the field, expresses it, EfS “aspires to educate students who have the ability, ambition, and know how to make decisions that balance the need to preserve healthy ecosystems with the need to maintain vibrant economies and equitable social systems in this generation and all generations to come.”

Education for Sustainability  uses multiple pedagogical techniques. CELF training emphasizes project– and inquiry-based learning, place-based education and experiential learning to promote an understanding of the interconnectedness of the environment, the economy and society, and to connect that knowledge to inquiry and action.

Education for Sustainability

What It Is

  • An education approach that uses multiple pedagogies
  • Teaching through the lens of sustainability across disciplines and grade levels
  • Purposeful teaching and learning that fosters a more socially just and sustainable world for our students

What It Is Not

  • A curriculum
  • A theme for the year
  • Just a recycling program or a school garden
  • Just Earth Day

Why is EfS important to our students? This “Q and A” approach concisely shares the goals of the modern day sustainability movement and how education for sustainability can improve education.

What does it mean to integrate EfS into my classroom? EfS can be integrated in many different ways across all content areas of K-12 education, but for a simple example, consider the humble apple.  This Sustainability Rainbow chart demonstrates how an EFS lens can lead students down many paths of inquiry toward a more holistic understanding of an apple and its place in our world.

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