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Four Reasons to Teach the Sustainable Development Goals

Each year on April 22, Earth Day is celebrated around the globe as it marks the anniversary of the modern environmental movement that started in 1970. This year’s Earth Day theme is “Restore Our Earth” and will focus on tackling the challenges that face us with climate change. What better way to discuss these challenges than through the lens of the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda?

The United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda, adopted in 2015, includes seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030. Countries around the world have committed to taking action to meet these goals, such as making energy clean and affordable, stopping global warming, ending hunger and poverty, and creating sustainable cities and communities.

At Participate Learning, we are proud to join forces with organizations that champion the SDGs. There are more than fifty million public school students in the United States and more than three million full-time public school teachers. This collective group is a powerful force in creating positive change in local communities and achieving the SDGs by 2030.

Read on to discover four reasons the SDGs are vital in creating engaging classrooms, raising awareness of global issues, and inspiring students and teachers to take action.

1. Students need to learn about the world.

The SDGs are universal goals for all people and are inherently global in nature. Learning about these initiatives helps students develop insights into critical issues around the world, such as lack of access to clean water and gender equality. These issues are inseparable from culture, and to truly understand the SDGs, students need to learn about the world around them.

Our ambassador teachers bring new perspectives to their classrooms by embedding their cultures and heritages into the curriculum. Through this cultural exchange, students begin to have a deeper understanding of their own identities and what makes their culture unique. The more they learn, the more their curiosity and compassion for others grow.

2. Students must be active participants in the world they live in.

In our increasingly interconnected world, we need to prepare the next generation to be global leaders who are able to lead and thrive in the global marketplace. The SDGs engage students in practical goals and problem-solving by putting issues into relatable contexts.

We must encourage students to be active participants in their local and global communities to solve the biggest challenges the world faces today. When students become global leaders and have an appreciation for cultural differences, they see themselves as citizens of the world and take responsibility to enact change on a global scale.

3. Students grow empathy and compassion.

When students are exposed to important SDG topics such as those about poverty, hunger, and education, they begin to understand the unique challenges facing communities all over the world that they may not have known about before. This understanding fosters a sense of global connection and empathy for the earth as a whole.

Students need empathy to develop healthy relationships throughout their lives. By taking empathy and transforming it into action-based compassion, students can start community initiatives they are passionate about or get involved in local organizations that create change and unite our world.

4. Students and teachers are inspired to take action.

Teachers do not need to be experts in topics such as responsible consumption or clean energy to teach the SDGs. They can learn and explore these issues alongside their students and plan ways to take action together. Once students have an understanding of the SDGs and why they are necessary, they will be inspired to make positive changes, in big and small ways.

We have seen this in countless ways through work with our ambassador teachers, from high school students raising awareness about human trafficking to first graders conserving water by turning off their classroom faucets more frequently. Together, with teachers and students, we can be a powerful force for achieving the United Nations’ vision of a more peaceful, healthy, and equitable world.

This post originally appeared on IntraHealth International’s blog, VITAL, on April 18, 2017, by Caroline Weeks. It was updated on April 20, 2021 by Holland Page to reflect new offerings.

At Participate Learning, we are passionate about uniting our world through global learning. Check out our global leaders webpage and read this blog post for more information on how you can join us in furthering this mission. Are you celebrating Earth Day 2021 in your classroom? Share with us on Twitter @Participatelrng or use the hashtag #unitingourworld.