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Make Every Day Earth Day: Leveraging Curriculum for a Sustainable Future

By Megan Vosk
Make Every Day Earth Day: Leveraging Curriculum for a Sustainable Future

Earth Day 2024 official poster. (Photo source:

Repairing relations with Mother Earth is the mother of all of humanity’s challenges. We must act – and act now – to create a better future for us all.” - António Guterres, Earth Day Message

Monday, April 22, 2024, marked the 54th Earth Day celebration. The official poster from this year said, “Make Every Day Earth Day.” It’s a good reminder to appreciate and extend gratitude towards our blue planet 365 days a year. But just paying tribute to the natural beauty of the earth is not enough. In a world of rising temperatures, increasing pollution, and the proliferation of plastic waste, we should be talking about concepts like sustainability, eco-literacy, climate change, and environmental justice all the time. But what does that look like in our classrooms? It means going beyond a superficial, contributionist approach and embedding climate education into the fabric of our curriculums.

A 2021 UNESCO report stated, “A study of almost 50 countries revealed that less than half made any mention of climate change in their educational policies.” Although climate change is the defining issue of our era, our schools are not yet prioritizing it in the ways they should be. A study from 2020 points to the power of climate change education to enact lasting change. It found that “if just 16 percent of secondary school students around the world in middle and high-income countries studied climate change, it would result in cutting almost 19 gigatons of CO2 by 2050.” This is because, once educated about the problem, students change their behaviors and habits, and support more eco-friendly policies, actions, initiatives, and businesses.

Make Every Day Earth Day:  

As a teacher who has the potential to influence and inspire dozens of students every day, I often wonder if I am doing enough to bring climate change education into my classroom. There are so many factors in a school that I have no control over. However, one area in which I do have autonomy is what goes on in my classroom. Even though there are curriculum restraints, I have the flexibility to decide what gets taught and how. Keeping climate change at the forefront when making curriculum decisions can lead to actions, both small and large, that encourage students to think more deeply about their consumption patterns and choices.

What follows are some examples and suggestions from my practice that I’d like to share. I give these examples to illustrate that you don’t need to have dedicated “service learning” time or “service learning units” to get students thinking about climate change and sustainability. All you need is a desire to raise awareness and the willingness to keep coming back to the issue - to keep putting it front and center no matter what else you are doing.

1. Use the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to teach about climate issues:

The SDGs provide a valuable framework for starting conversations around climate change and building students’ eco-literacy. Because all the SDGs are interconnected, looking at a multi-faceted issue such as climate change through the lens of the SDGs can help students see the various ways in which the problem affects our lives.

Although the SDGs were enacted in 2015, there are still many students who have no idea what they are or have a limited understanding of them. According to a survey by Times Higher Education Consultancy, “28 percent of students are aware of the SDGs but have limited knowledge of them.” This indicates to me that, as teachers, we have not done enough to embed the SDGs into our instruction. Education is the vehicle by which students learn the skills, content, and vocabulary necessary to put ideas into practice. Taking concerted action across the board in our schools to ensure that the SDGs – and especially SDG13: Climate Action – are talked about frequently and linked to curriculum goals could make a huge difference in terms of deepening students’ understanding of climate issues.

2. Tap into existing programs related to climate education:

I found several opportunities this school year to get students thinking about climate issues and connecting with students across the globe. One of the opportunities I found was sponsored by Microsoft Flip and called the “Global Climate Action Exchange.” This program was aligned with COP28 and encouraged students to reflect on “actions to be taken to achieve SDG13 in your community.” I tied participation in the “Global Climate Action Exchange” to a Grade 8 English Language Acquisition unit that I was teaching called “Human Impact,” which asked students to analyze the positive and negative ways that our actions affect the earth. In this unit, our class also partnered with Springbay Studio and their League for Green Leaders competition. The competition asked students to track their daily CO2 output and to think about ways to reduce their output by making healthier choices such as eating less meat, walking or biking to school, and not purchasing single-use plastics.

Another opportunity I discovered through my social media feeds was called “Traveling Tales.” In this program, students partnered with classes in three different countries to produce a digital story about SDG13 called “Protect the Penguins.” Students researched, wrote, illustrated, and narrated their tale, which was then shared with others via YouTube.

Lastly, the Model UN club that I sponsor participated in the Global Goals Project World’s Largest Lesson. This experience allowed students to do a deep dive into SDG11: Sustainable Cities. Students brainstormed problems in our city and came up with creative solutions for those problems. They shared their thinking with other students around the world via Microsoft Flip.

3. Use multimedia to help students connect with the stories of those most affected by climate change:

Many powerful films tell the struggles of indigenous peoples in the fight against climate change. I often show these videos during my advisory block or whenever I have a few free minutes left in a class. One of the websites that I have found most helpful is called Sima Academy. This website has video playlists curated for each of the 17 SDGs. Another website that has incredible films is Global Oneness Project. One of the most heartbreaking is called “Lost Worlds,” which sheds light on the ways that sand dredging in the mangrove forests of Cambodia is affecting traditional fishing communities.

4. Build partnerships with the local community:

The theme for Earth Day this year was Planet vs. Plastics. Rather than talking with students about the importance of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), our school decided to celebrate the day by hosting a performance from a local arts troupe. The artists create puppets out of natural and recycled materials, such as the ubiquitous sticky rice baskets that can be found in street stalls across Southeast Asia. This event not only showcased out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to repurposing old items but also honored the local culture and traditions.


Although the realities of teaching in busy schools prevent us from being able to “make Every Day Earth Day,” we can and should be doing better in terms of making climate education a priority. A 2016 survey of 1,500 middle and high school teachers in the United States found that “they only devoted one or two hours to climate change during the entire academic year.” Considering the dire climate situation we currently find ourselves in on planet Earth, that isn’t nearly enough. The initial goal of Earth Day was to “raise public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment, and the inextricable links between pollution and public health.” This dovetails with our mission as educators, which is to equip young people with the tools and information that they will need to change the world for the better. We must do more to foster climate literacy in our schools if this is our goal.


Megan Vosk is the Middle Years Program (MYP) Service as Action Coordinator at Vientiane International School. She teaches the MYP Individuals and Societies and English Language Acquisition. She is also the chair of the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) teacher leaders committee.

Twitter/X: @megan_vosk

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