Educating for Sustainability
Holistic Approaches from Early Childhood through University
The growing movement for sustainability education often excels in teaching a wealth of information about urgent issues such as climate change or decreasing biodiversity. But a critical gap remains — helping students attune hearts, minds, and hands to the vast wisdom of nature. Such attunement is the necessary foundation for perceiving the issues in their broadest contexts and for evaluating what fruits human actions will bear in the long term.
In effective sustainability education, nature is the wise source, the teacher is guide, and students are apprentices, helped by the guide to learn from the source.
The Nature Institute provides here various resources for educators and parents, including an online guide to this kind of transformative approach to educating for sustainability. The purpose of this guide is twofold.
First, we want to support adults who seek to model and teach ways of accurately observing, understanding, and relating to the natural world that honor both its unity and diversity. The key goal is that as educators we become ever more aware of, and inspired by, the living presence of the world around us, our interdependence with all other living beings, and our ethical obligations to them.
And second, this guide will prepare educators to help students explore nature in experiential ways that build concrete knowledge about nature’s complexity, power of metamorphosis, and dynamic interplay of relationships. The teaching methods and resources we share here are also designed to help students cultivate a sense of wonder, gratitude, and respect for life and the earth.
Selections from the Guide
For All Educators
Designed for educators at all educational levels, Craig Holdrege’s 2013 book, Thinking Like a Plant: A Living Science for Life, develops a truly ecological view of life and education. You can read more about the book and order it from our bookstore. You may also read an excerpt from the book here.
For Middle School Educators
An Environmental Science Curriculum for Middle School: Plants and Human Interactions by Craig Holdrege (2011).
For High School Educators
Colloquium on Life Science and Environmental Studies: AWSNA High School Research Project #5 (2002; especially the first chapter, “Metamorphosis and Metamorphic Thinking” by Craig Holdrege.)
For Postsecondary Educators
Biology Worthy of Life, a Nature Institute project led by Stephen L. Talbott (ongoing posts since 2010).
Other Resources for Sustainability Education
- For a link to other organizations providing resources, click here.
- We also have a bibliography of publications by other authors.
- After exploring our Guide, you may enjoy investigating other Content Areas on our website, using the navigation menu on the top left of this page. Much of our work relates in one way or another to sustainability education. See, for example, our special sections on Seeing Nature Whole: A Goethean Approach and Science Education.
A Final Thought
Educators skilled in helping students develop the kind of appreciation for nature that we promote here — one that is mindful, heartfelt, and inspired to act — also facilitate students’ awareness that sustainable action requires protecting all species for their own sake, as well as for human needs. All of us at The Nature Institute thank you for your interest in working in this way.
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