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Global Education

How to Thoughtfully Engage with the SDGs as an Educator

Established in 2015, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a call to action for countries around the world to unite over global issues and create meaningful change. The SDGs aim to make progress toward issues such as ending poverty and hunger, protecting the well-being of the planet, and ensuring that all people have access to the resources needed to live peaceful and prosperous lives. Many of our Ambassador Teachers integrate the SDGs into their current teaching practices as they expand the worldview and perspectives of their students.

The SDGs and global learning are interconnected because as we learn more about the world around us and develop ties to it as global citizens, we also begin to take responsibility for the well-being of our planet and the living creatures that inhabit it. With seventeen SDGs, you have many options for engaging with the goals that resonate with you the most and for taking action in your own life to contribute to this worldwide initiative. Read on to discover how educators can implement the SDGs into different areas of their lives.

1. Research the SDGs individually.

Before starting discussions about the SDGs with other people in your life, spend some time getting familiar with each goal to better understand the complexities behind why the goal is necessary and what targets it is trying to achieve. By critically thinking about the facts behind the issues and considering your own role within all of it, you will be better equipped to offer your own unique perspectives in conversations about the SDGs with your students and colleagues.

While it can prove daunting to dive into researching any large topic such as the SDGs, the UN SDG web page makes it easy to start the learning process. Each goal has targets and indicators, publications, and news articles you can explore that will help to expand your knowledge.

2. Learn about the SDGs with your class.

Once you have created a solid foundation for yourself with each of the goals, then you can begin to build lessons for your students that incorporate the goals in a way that is interactive and meaningful for your students and their needs as learners. This can be a fun way for you to also engage with the goals in a new way that will deepen your understanding too.

Some SDGs can be combined in projects for which students guide their own learning through exploration, such as SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) and SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), or SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and SDG 13 (Climate Action). Once your students have a better understanding of the goals themselves, find a classwide project that you can work on together, such as reducing the amount of paper and plastic used each day or discussing gender stereotypes and how they play a role in today’s society.

3. Practice the SDGs with your grade-level team.

Start conversations with the other teachers on your team, and consider ways you can implement the SDGs for your whole grade level. Are there any lessons you share among classes for which paper handouts and materials could be reused or repurposed? Small changes like these can make a big impact over the course of a school year.

You can also collaborate to find ways to do grade-level lessons that involve the SDGs, such as learning about ecosystems, healthful living practices, or inequalities among different countries. Because your students will all be the same age, you can tailor your approaches with them to suit them developmentally so that they get the most out of these deep-dive group lessons.

4. Bring the SDGs to your school and local community.

Once you’ve explored the SDGs within your grade level, talk with other teachers and the administration at your school to find ways to implement the goals on a broader level with your school community and the surrounding areas. Hands-on projects like community initiatives are likely to impact and stay with students in the long run, so find something that feels important and relevant to the people in your area.

Do Sustainable Communities (SDG 11) and Life on Land (SDG 15) feel important to your students? Consider doing a park beautification day with them to show the value of having access to clean, green spaces. Do hunger or homelessness impact people near you? Start a schoolwide food drive or do student field trips to the community garden so that students can actively engage with the first three SDGs and see the ripple effect of their actions.

At Participate Learning, we are grateful to support educators who are dedicated to expanding the young minds of their students, creating positive change in their schools and local communities, and making the world a kinder and more empathetic place. For more information on how you can engage with the SDGs, join this Community of Practice and check out these resources.

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