Professional learning

Teaching sustainability in the classroom: Lesson plans from EF educators

Image of a teacher at her laptop learning about how to teach sustainability in the classroom, with the text

Whether it’s Earth Day or otherwise, EF always celebrates the kind of eye-opening, travel-based learning that can create a positive impact on the world. And changing the world is something we can’t do alone. One of the best ways we develop experiences and change perspectives is by partnering with organizations who share in this mission.

Among our invaluable partners is the United Nations Association of the USA. As part of the UN’s It’s a Better World Campaign, we collaborate to help promote their 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda—which consists mainly of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Together, we’ve developed a dynamic program that helps our teachers, students, and Tour Directors put these goals into practice the best way we know how: Action, through education.

The United Nations Sustainability Goals: From Global to Local

When a teacher signs up to lead an EF tour, they unlock an educational travel experience that benefits them as much as their students. But that’s not all. EF provides teachers with extra benefits like exclusive travel, networking, and other professional development opportunities. Because teachers deserve it. 

One such opportunity recently came about because of EF’s partnership with the United Nations Association of the USA. EF Group Leaders were invited to a free professional learning course on how to teach sustainability in the classroom, with a focus around the UN’s SDGs on a global and local scale. 

The teachers who participated in the course, “The United Nations Sustainability Goals: From Global to Local,” were excited to collaborate with fellow educators across the country, taking a deep dive into crucial subjects like climate change, poverty, and environmental health, all while earning professional learning hours or credit. They even got to hear directly from Spokesperson to the UN Secretary General, Stephane Dujarric. And every teacher walked away with detailed, ready-to-execute lesson plans.

Here are three of the lesson plans created in the UN Sustainable Development Goals course

This course enabled every teacher to create comprehensive lesson plans designed to work in their style, for their students, and in their classroom. 

If you’re wondering how to teach sustainability in your classroom, this is a perfect place to start. Get to know a few of our teachers and check out the lesson plans they’ve created.


Meet Lauren
7th Grade Global Studies teacher from
North Dakota

As a Global Studies teacher and a Master of Global Studies Education, bringing this kind of responsible global education to my students both in and out of the classroom is very important to me. That’s why I partnered with EF and began a travel club for students and families called S.T.E.W. Crew: Students Touring to Experience the World. I am excited to continue this travel program at my school and to provide global education opportunities to students and their families in my hometown.

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Lauren developed a research-based project that challenges students to ideate something new, from the initial brainstorming all the way through a prototype presentation. This lesson enables students to find new ways of thinking and expand their imaginations to propose a real-life solution in support of any of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Download Lauren’s Lesson Plan →



Meet Michael
5th Grade Reading, English Language Arts, and
United States History teacher from Texas

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” My great passion is using my talents and vast experiences in elementary education to bring about authentic and long-lasting educational change for our future generations. As an educator, I believe all educators should go the extra mile every day to serve their students and community and inspire others to do the same.

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Michael’s lesson plan covers the SDGs by making a connection to a familiar (and, dare we say, delicious!) product: coffee. Featuring a video by Malala and other engaging content, the lesson plan challenges students to listen critically and cite their sources in order to answer the big question: What is coffee production costing the planet?

Download Michael’s Lesson Plan →



Meet Christine
6th–8th Grade Pre-Algebra teacher from Pennsylvania

I graduated with honors from Millersville University in 2017 with a degree in mathematics education. I’m currently completing my Masters in Integrative STEM Education and am due to graduate Fall 2022. I teach students between 6th and 8th grade and I previously taught 4th grade, but nearly all my current students are 7th graders taking Pre-Algebra. This summer I am taking a group of students out west on the National Parks trip with EF. I enjoy being active in my free time and I am an avid reader.

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This dynamic lesson plan revolves around a sustainability goal that many students and teachers find especially engaging: saving the ocean. Students build their knowledge of marine conservation, discover the many sources of ocean pollution, and even put their STEM skills to the test by creating a device that could help combat and clean these pollutants from the ocean.

Download Christine’s Lesson Plan →

Celebrate education. Grow perspectives. Shape minds. Change the world.

Teaching how to contribute to a more sustainable world is just one way EF strives to help create a brighter future every day. But we couldn’t do it without the teachers like Lauren, Michael, and Christine. We count ourselves lucky to get to work with and learn from such a brilliant group of EF educators every day—the kind of teachers who truly are changing this world for the better, one thoughtful conversation, one inspired idea, and one less plan at a time. 

Interested in professional development opportunities like this one? Get in touch with your Tour Consultant to see what’s available for current EF educators or reach out to our team to hear more!

Cover of the EF Impact Report, which includes mention of how to teach sustainability in the classroom and out in the world

Our collective (and ever-expanding) impact

Here at EF, we’re constantly in pursuit of ways to create a better, more sustainable world. Beyond promoting cultural connection and broadening students’ perspectives through our EF Educational Tours and EF Explore America student travel programs, as an organization, EF supports a number of sustainability efforts on a global scale.

Earlier this year, we proudly released our first-ever EF Impact Report, which shares the data and stories behind the positive impact that truly drives not only what we do here at EF, but who we are.

Read the report

Mary Kate Gough

Mary Kate is a freelance copywriter who loves to bring her words and worldly experiences to the blog here at EF. Her passion for linguistics extends from English to Spanish, and she’s always looking for flights to destinations where she can brush up on the latter.

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