Curriculum Resources for Sustainability


The lessons below were developed for a variety of classroom settings. They are all related to the teaching of “threshold concepts” that are key to learning the sustainability paradigm.

By  Acabashi  - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

By Acabashi - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Systems Thinking

“Do You Want Fries with That?” is an combined lecture/exercise that introduces students to systems thinking by applying concepts such as feedback loops to a familiar and seemingly mundane example: the profitability of fast food restaurants and the health impacts of consuming french fries. Students learn to draw connection circles, causal loop diagrams, and are exposed to positive and negative feedback loops.


Red/Black Social Dilemma

In this modified version of a classic “prisoners’ dilemma” exercise, students work in teams to try to amass the highest number of positive points. Unlike the prisoner’s dilemma, one team winning over the other is not explicitly referenced, and teams are given an opportunity in later rounds to communicate with each other. Students learn both the importance of communication and middle ground in natural resource management, and also have a chance to reflect on the assumptions that they make regarding the rules of the game, what constitutes winning, and whether self-interested decisions always result in the best possible outcomes.

By  Maulucioni  - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

By Maulucioni - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Folk Ecology Stack Sort

This exercise has students, on their own, sort a stack of photos of various local plant and animal species based on whatever ordering system makes sense to them. Then, students share their individual approaches and the lesson leader shares yet another based on Indigenous knowledge. Students learn how different knowledge systems can come to classify the same information in fundamentally different, but not incompatible ways.


Great Forgetting Timeline

In this exercise, students and the lesson leader collaborate on constructing a timeline of human history. Emphasis is on the order of the development of major works in social philosophy, such as Hobbes’ Leviathan, as they compare to such events as Darwin publishing Origin of Species and the identification of the first Homo erectus specimen, Java Man.



In this exercise, students take some time to reflect on the various ways of knowing that enter into different aspects of their lives, from cooking to driving to taking a test.