What the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals mean for your curriculum

Students holding up posters for each UN Sustainable Development Goal.

When you’re dedicated to teaching children something positive and offering them hope for the future, something that encourages real action, you’re already taking the first, important steps to teaching the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.


What are the SDGs?


SDGs stands for “Sustainable Development Goals.” They are a set of 17 goals, developed by the United Nations and leaders around the world, which are to be achieved by the year 2030.  Goals include Quality Education, Gender Equality, Climate Action, and more, and each has specific targets, or action steps, associated with them. Many of us are already incorporating these goals into our teaching without specifically labeling them as such. Let’s start identifying them for our students.


Isn’t this a big undertaking?


Teachers these days are overwhelmed by curricular demands and testing, but we can’t let that stop us.  Teaching is a critical job, as we each help develop tomorrow’s leaders.  The students in front of us today will be leading us before we know it. Incorporating the SDGs into the classroom can be as simple, or as complex at teachers would like it to be.


Could you share an example of how to incorporate the Global Goals into current curriculum?


I teach elementary school in New York, and have used Skype in the Classroom for the last eight years.  In addition to meeting experts, authors, and taking virtual field trips, my students have connected with students and teachers on every continent and over 40 countries to gain a greater understanding about culture around the world.  We’ve begun to incorporate the goals into these conversations.

Last year, my students took part in a Skype call with Janie Hachen’s class in Kansas, in which we shared the recent digital posters we’d created based on the goals.  Each child chose a goal that they felt most passionate about, such as Global Goal 14: Life Below Water, or Global Goal 2: Zero Hunger.  Click here to view the posters.  Janie’s students loved the experience so much that they took action and created their own posters on the SDGs!

On another day, we had a Skype session with Jean Pennycook in Antarctica and saw the Adélie penguins waddling across our white board.  The sight was something we’ll never forget, and students quickly realized that Global Goal 13: Climate Action was connected.  Not long after our call, a chunk of Antarctica’s ice shelf collapsed.  Could this be connected to climate change? My students wanted to learn more.

By labeling current lessons and Skype calls with the goals, students develop an awareness of the goals, and this is something that will stay with them as they move on to upper grades and beyond.

Teachers around the world have joined the movement to #TeachSDGs in their classrooms and many are collaborating from country to country, around the goals.  For instance, after connecting through the #TeachSDGs Skype Collaboration, Fred Sagwe from Kenya partnered with Gjorgiina Dimova from Macedonia and with Sean Robinson from Canada. The three worked on solar lanterns together, supporting Global Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy and Global Goal 4: Quality Education.


Where should I begin?


  1. Take the course on Teaching the Sustainable Development Goals, on the Microsoft Educator Community site.
  2. Take the pledge to #TeachSDGs.
  3. Make connections via Skype in the Classroom.
  4. Contact your partner class(es)and collaborate on one or more of the Global Goals.
  5. Finally, share the results of your Global Goals projects on Twitter. @TeachSDGs @SkypeClassroom @MicrosoftEdu @SkypeAmy @GlobalGoals


What else should I know about SDGs?


I often refer to the goals as the glue, which binds it all together.  Almost every conversation we have in my classroom can be connected to one or more of the goals.

Many teachers are already using Skype to help usher students into a world in which they are global citizens, so why not link these conversations to the goals and prompt our students to take action in the world?  I have a feeling we’ll be happy we did.