Teaching About the Sustainable Development Goals

Introduction

The United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, which at its core contains the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals address the many challenges that our global society is facing, including poverty, inequality, climate change, ecological damage, and peace and justice. Though the SDGs were adopted six years ago now, we still have a significant amount of work to do. Teaching students about the Sustainable Development Goals is important because it gives them the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and commit to working together to build a better and more sustainable future for everyone.

Resources

There are many resources available online for teaching about the Sustainable Development Goals. For educators who also want to teach their students about sustainability and sustainable development more generally, U4SC has put together the topic resource Teaching About Sustainability and Sustainable Development.

Lesson Plans

  1. Academy 4SC: Find videos on each one of the Sustainable Development Goals at Academy 4SC. Teachers have access to resources like worksheets, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more included in each topic’s lesson plan.
  2. Sustainable Development Goals – Student Resources: The United Nations offers a variety of fun and engaging activities to help educators teach students about the Sustainable Development Goals and what they can do to take action and make them a reality. Resources include Be a Food Hero Like Peter Rabbit, ActNow Action Guide, Climate Action Superhero, Freerice Game from WFP, and many more!
  3. Sustainable Development Goals – Resources for Educators: UNESCO provides a resource bank for educators on the Sustainable Development Goals. The bank includes hundreds of pedagogical ideas for classroom activities and multimedia resources explaining how to most effectively integrate Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into teaching and learning in early childhood care and education, primary education, and secondary education.
  4. Learn and Teach – SDGs: Change for Children has compiled a list of several SDG learning resources educators can use to teach about the Sustainable Development Goals in the classroom and inspire students to be global citizens and advocates for a more sustainable future for all people. SDG learning resources include the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the World’s Largest Lesson, 170 Daily Actions to Transform our World, SDG Board Game, and more!
  5. 10 Ready-to-use Lesson Plans on the Sustainable Development Goals: BookWidgets provides 10 interactive and ready-to-use lesson plans on the Sustainable Development Goals. This resource recommends that educators first show students a video on the SDGs and then let students solve a jigsaw puzzle, practice the SDGs with flashcards or a hotspot image, pull the SDGs into a classroom discussion, play an SDG board game either physically or digitally, take a quiz to check their knowledge, and complete an SDG project!
  6. Lesson Plan – Becoming Agents for Change Through the Sustainable Development Goals: PBS NewsHour has put together a lesson plan on becoming agents for change through the Sustainable Development Goals. The lesson asks students to watch two videos, one in which they will explore each of the SDGs and another where they will learn about how failing infrastructure and climate change leaves many South Africans without water and then identify which SDGs apply to the story. After sharing in small groups and having a class discussion, they will read the article America’s Clean Water Crisis Goes Far Beyond Flint. There’s No Relief in Sight, participate in another class discussion, and re-examine the SDGs.
  7. SDG Academy: The SDG Academy has created many free online courses and educational materials on sustainable development and the SDGs. Some of their courses include Work and Employment for a Sustainable Future, Governance for Transboundary Freshwater Security, Climate Change: The Science and Global Impact, and Nature-Based Solutions for Disaster and Climate Resilience.

Articles

  1. Four Reasons to Teach the Sustainable Development Goals: Participate Learning offers an article on their blog that discusses four reasons to teach the Sustainable Development Goals. The article explains how students should learn about the SDGs because they need to learn about the world, be active participants in the world they live in, grow empathy and compassion, and be inspired to take action!
  2. How Can We Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals For and With Children?: UNICEF provides an article discussing how we can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for and with children. The organization supports a “3As” approach: raising awareness, taking action, and holding decision makers accountable for progress. Therefore, the article describes each of these steps in detail and provides resources to help students and educators alike achieve them!
  3. Common Questions on the Sustainable Development Goals: What Does “No One Left Behind” Mean?: The United Nations Foundation has published an article in which the author asks Mara van Loggerenber, the UN Foundation’s Senior Manager of Policy Initiatives, for answers to the most common questions on the Sustainable Development Goals. Mara van Loggerenberg explains what “no one left behind” means in context of the SDGs, why the emphasis on leaving no one behind is significant, what success looks like, what some steps are that the international community needs to take to make sure no one is left behind, and more related topics.
  4. UN News – SDGs: UN News offers a collection of global perspective human stories related to the SDGs. Topics of articles include desertification and drought destabilizing the well-being of 3.2 billion people; the Covid crisis pushing global unemployment over 200 million mark in 2022; and the UN chief calling for a global partnership to address Covid, climate change, and to achieve the SDGs.

Informational Sites

  1. The 17 Goals: The United Nations provides an abundance of information and resources on each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. For educators who want their students to learn about the SDGs through a webquest, this site would be perfect!
  2. Sustainable Development Goals: National Geographic has published an article on the Sustainable Development Goals. The article explains how the SDGs are a continuation of the MDGs, the difference between the SDGs and MDGs, and the amount of progress that has been made by the SDGs.
  3. What the SDGs Mean: The United Nations offers an article explaining what the Sustainable Development Goals mean.

Conclusion

Teaching about the Sustainable Development Goals is extremely important and will only become more so as time goes on. Across the world, our resources are running out and the issues of poverty, inequality, and climate change are only growing. With the resources above, students will gain a better understanding of the most pressing issues we are facing and why it is so important that we take actions to secure a better future for ourselves and future generations!

Additional Resources

  1. SDG 5 – Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls: UN Women provides an article explaining how to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
  2. Sustainable Development Goals – Videos: The United Nations has put together a list of videos by issue on the Sustainable Development Goals. The topics of the videos include biodiversity/forests/desertification, cities, climate change, economic growth, education, energy, and financing for development.

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