The push to incorporate the UN Sustainable Development Goals into K-12 schools.
UNITED NATIONS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDGs)
What are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals?
The UN Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, are 17 goals and 169 targets that were developed by the United Nations in 2015 and are part of what is called “Agenda 2030.” According to the UN, the agenda is a “plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.”
Sustainable Development Goal four – and its ten targets – aim to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
UNITED NATIONS EDUCATION, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION (UNESCO)
What is UNESCO?
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, is the United Nations body tasked with “promoting international cooperation in education, sciences, culture, communication and information.” It states that its programs “contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals defined in the 2030 Agenda, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015.”
UNESCO’s vision is to develop “educational tools to help people live as global citizens free of hate and intolerance.” It helps countries “adopt international standards and manages programmes that foster the free flow of ideas and the exchange of knowledge.”
In 2019, UNESCO published an article titled “SEL for SDGs: why social and emotional learning (SEL) is necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” It states that the SDGs are “not necessarily a set of consistent objectives but rather a series of potentially conflicting goals.” It clarifies that in the attempt to achieve the SDGs, people will encounter conflicting objectives and inconsistencies that will create a “cognitive dissonance.” The state of dissonance creates strains on a person’s mental and emotional capabilities and “may undermine attainment of those goals.” The solution is to develop “emotional resilience and prosocial behavior” in students.
The article advocates for what it calls the “EMC2 framework,” which is “designed to develop and nourish the whole brain.” The framework assists students in navigating dissonance, or an “unpleasant emotive state.” The claim is that SEL is needed to “navigate the behaviors and prerequisite antecedents to attain SDGs.”
National Education Association Foundation
In 2020, the National Education Association Foundation released the document “Creative Lessons to Open Classrooms & Minds To The World” which included a curriculum and grade level specific lessons aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For example, an eighth-grade lesson plan titled “Youth-Led Social Activism” seeks to teach middle school students “to better understand the injustices they and others around them face.” The document includes several resources promoting student activism as well as school walkouts and protests.
Los Angeles Unified School District’s 2017 STEAM Fest stated that the event uses STEAM as “access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking.” The event was aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The Paramount Unified School District STEM Capstone Honors course outline states that the course does not require a textbook; instead, students will “read from various websites and articles including, but not limited the following: United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”
Illinois Math and Science Academy
Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA) is committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The STEM school highlights in its “snapshot” how it weaves the 17 goals throughout all curriculums. The school highlights how the UN SDGs are a focus in the biology classroom.
As part of the school’s “Intersession” course curriculum held January 10-14, 2022, IMSA offered a class titled “Data for Black Lives: Applying Anti-Racism To Technology and Medicine.” The overview of the three-day course stated that students would “learn about the intersections of race, technology, and medicine, from predictive policies that target Black people to stand medical devices that work worse for dark skin and coarse, curly hair.” The course catalog stated that the session “relates to the UN SDGs and/or IMSA’s commitment to the UN SDGs.”
The Washoe County School District eighth grade social studies scope and sequence includes a focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals during the second semester.
Included in the eighth-grade curriculum is a lesson titled “Unfair Race.” The lesson plan states that students will be able to “connect a country’s health to its social and economic conditions.” Students are given game cards and instructed to physically move forward based on whether the information meets the scripted categories.
Barrington Public Schools
Barrington Public Schools has “adopted and integrated” the UN Sustainable Development Goals into all of its schools.
The Coppell Independent School District’s Sustainability Committee states that its mission is to “embed sustainable practices within the culture of each school across the district.” As part of that mission, the committee created the “Sustainability Challenge Rubric” which “provides goal statements and criteria that campus staff might use to measure their current sustainable practices and set new goals.” One of the listed topics includes “alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.” Staff can meet “expert” scoring if there is “active achievement of several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a part of the school’s culture. The School educates the community about the importance of accomplishing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
The Fort Bend Independent School District’s Hodges Middle School started the 2017 school year with the UN Sustainable Development Goals Kick-Off Day. The event connected the students to other schools from “around the nation and experts from large corporations.” The teachers stated that “her class will go over the 17 goals and choose the three they want to participate in.”
In its 2020-2021 Campus Improvement Plan, the Escobar Elementary School stated that “all students participate in Sustainable Development Goals.” It continued: “The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice through all content areas.”
The Falls Church City Public Schools states in its “FY 2023 Superintendent’s Proposed Budget” that its schools will teach “through the Sustainable Development Goals.” It asserts that “by teaching students to be advocates for the environment, the economy, and for social equity and justice that we can build a future that is sustainable within a better and more peaceful world.”
Seattle Public Schools
Seattle Public Schools’ Lincoln High School states that one of its “Core Academic Building Blocks” is the incorporation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in student projects.
The district’s Magnolia Elementary states that staff “plan to use engaging and relevant instructional strategies (such as Project-Based Learning) with all of our students that will deepen the academic and social and emotional learning skills and concepts we teach.” The school uses the Sustainable Development Goals to “frame this work” and that “all students will be engaging in meaningful projects, making positive contributions toward a more just and humane world.”
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction offers educators a lesson plan on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It states that the purpose is to “explore what the United Nations sustainability goals are and their purpose for improving the human and environmental global community.”