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Lesson Plans for Teaching Sustainability

Imagine what your classroom could look like if students were engaged in sustainability learning.

Students create a garden in their school's yard

By Emily Olsen-Harbich

September 17, 2014

As you kick off your school year planning, consider incorporating a lesson on sustainability. The Center for Green Schools, at the U.S Green Building Council, would like to invite teachers to participate in this year’s Green Apple Day of Service.

This September, the third annual Green Apple Day of Service will transform schools all around the world into healthier places to live, learn, work, and play. Hundreds of thousands of students, parents, teachers and community members will volunteer their time on school projects that emphasize the importance of sustainability, by taking local action. Join us by making a commitment to teach a green lesson in your classroom this fall. It’s easy!

What can sustainability look like in schools?  A typical “green” school saves $100,000 annually on operating costs through conservation efforts such as water efficient fixtures, energy-efficient and motion sensor lighting, and designs that maximize daylight.  With these savings, a school could hire at least one new teacher, buy 200 computers, or purchase 5,000 textbooks. 

What’s more, teaching sustainability could facilitate better learning outcomes for students. Studies show that hands-on civic engagement projects can boost student achievement in reading and science.

Imagine what your classroom could look like if your students were engaged in sustainability learning.  Teachers can facilitate important outcomes for students, schools, and communities by promoting sustainability and environmental learning. So where can you start?

We are pleased to share the resources and lesson plans below to make it easy for you to integrate sustainability into your classroom and help boost environmental education in your classroom, any time of year!

College students work on a garden building project with the nonprofit Global Gardens

Lesson Plan Ideas

Grades Pre-K-2:

Grades 3-5:

  • What resources do I use on a daily basis? Which are rapidly renewable and not renewable?
  • What are some changes we could make to our school to use the sun in a smarter way
    • Cooking with the Sun by the City & County of San Francisco

Grades 6-8:

Grades 9-12:

  • How can biofuel become a cost competitive alternative to fossil fuels?
  • How could pollution be regulated to promote environmental justice?
    •  Seeking Environmental Justice by Maryland EnviroHealth Connections