Exploring sustainability at secondary

Sian Evans
13th July 2017
secondary sustainibility lightbulb using no natural resources

Detailed lessons, thought-provoking debates and challenging games to empower critical thinking and reflection about sustainability

As our presence on the planet continues to have impact on a range of important biological systems, it’s no surprise that sustainability has become a cross-curricular priority. As well as being all-encompassing in the classroom, it is at the forefront of young peoples’ minds as they think about their future and the next generation.

To help your students understand the value of adopting a more sustainable way of living, we’ve gathered some of the very best introductory lesson ideas and activities. After all, there is no better time to stop and think about how to care for our planet. ​


Successful discussions about sustainability, and what that means on a global scale, are reliant on learners grasping the basics. Spend a lesson defining and analysing the term 'sustainable' in this research-led activity, or take a peer-teaching approach with this whole class lesson, which is dependent on individuals absorbing information and sharing it coherently.

For a more in-depth exploration, chew on the facts surrounding food production with this collection of lessons, using the Indus Basin Irrigation System as a relevant case study. Alternatively, this comprehensive unit, packed full of colourful presentations, is ideal for kick-starting meaningful discussions about the responsibilities of individuals and governments.


What is sustainability

An introduction lesson to what sustainability means.
By Keith_hicks6

Sustainability Lesson

A great whole class lesson. Learners are to work in teams/pairs. Each group of learners is to be given a factsheets. Learners are then to be given a large sheets of paper and condense the information down to onto the paper using limited words. (10 words works well)
Fact sheets are removed and learners move around the room to gain the information from other teams and use their fact sheets to teach the other learners. Lesson ends in a test of what they have learnt.
Great for observations. - Lesson plan included.
By lsshales


3 part lesson series for the OCR module Resource Reliance. This is the third section of the Resource Reliance prescribed module that also includes global resources and the Tanzania case study. Specifically designed for the new OCR Geography GCSE but also suitable for Edexcel and AQA. All lesson are for 50 minutes to 1 hour of teaching time. Includes supporting worksheets for lessons - no additional resources are required.

All lessons have a starter and lesson aim. Extension tasks also included. All PowerPoints in the same signature style.

Lesson sequence:

1 - Sustainable food production
2 - Managing food supply
3 - Small scale food production

Full module available for £10 along with all other OCR GCSE modules.

For more resources visit This is Geography. Full SoW for all new GCSE specifications - AQA, Edexcel, OCR, CIE IGCSE, Edexcel IGCSE and Eduqas. As well as over 200 lessons for KS3 and KS2. Want something bespoke designing? Email us for further details info@thisisgeography.co.uk

By thisisgeography

Environmental Change & Sustainability Unit Y11

Unit of work for Edexcel Unit 3A: environmental change & sustainability. Lessons for high and mid-low sets. Lesson sequence: 1) Introduction to environmental problems, meaning of 'sustainability&' 2) Barriers to change - why people and governments don&';t act 3) How can governments change behaviour? Incentives and punishments 4) International agreements on climate change and the environment (overview) 5) Why MEDCs and LEDCs disagree about dealing with climate change 6) Model UN lesson - discussing a climate agreement
By DaiQiuYun

Debates and games

Ready, set, debate! Talk about the complex issues surrounding sustainability by pitching one half of the class against another with help from this informative topic guide. Or use this role-play exercise as bait to get students discussing conflicting opinions about overfishing in this made-up scenario.  

Younger learners are guaranteed to engage with this settlement game, in which they weigh up all the factors required to create a sustainable living space. Thinking more globally, this fictional decision-making game, focusing on the development of sustainable tourism, get students talking and working together.


Debating Matters Topic Guide - Sustainability

The Debating Matters Competition's acclaimed Topic Guide series, created for sixth-form student debaters. Topic Guides feature summaries of contemporary debates covering cultural, legal, social, political, scientific and philosophical issues, and includes extensive hyperlinked bibliography, definition of key terms, resources, and topical news items. www.debatingmatters.com
By instituteofideas

Sustainability Role-Play Debate (Overfishing, Fisheries Ecology - for GCSE or A-level)

Designed to take up around a single lesson of time, this debate is aimed at 14 to 16 year olds but could easily be used with older students too. It splits students into 3 groups with conflicting interests (scientist, politician or fisherman) from a fictional country and challenges them to form a plan of action regarding their country's use of dwindling fish stocks.

Split students into groups by role (the scientist and politician roles require perhaps the greatest flexibility of thought, so maybe differentiate your groups allowing for this) and give them 5 to 10 minutes with the source material to discuss in their groups how they feel about the issues and what they're going to be aiming for in their debate.

Students then assemble into teams of 3 (one of each role) and have 15 minutes to debate about how they will tackle the issues of overfishing outlined on the accompanying worksheet. They should complete the included worksheet and reach a decision as to how they will move Pandora onwards into the future in a position that will best please everybody. Each group then feeds back their decision and some of the reasoning behind it.

This exercise helps students appreciate some of the real world conflicts that exist between human needs and those of the natural world. In my experience it also serves to show how some of these issues may not be as clear-cut as students first assume.
By cadarnloz

Settlement Game

Teams are required to design their own town/city. taking consideration of all the factors required for a good sustainable living space. This resource is based on some rather dusty old cards I found at the back of a retired teachers cupboard. Played it with the students and added the changes they felt was needed! What I thought would be just a lesson ended up taking at least 4 as the students were really into it and some great learning about settlements was had. please leave feedback as it makes it worth while adding free resources.
By lettielee

Sustainable tourism game

A decision making game designed around making sustainable decisions for developing tourism on an island (Phuket, Thailand - note the scenario is entirely fictional!). Students work in 3's, have to collect information about what is happening and then decide what the most sustainable choice would be.
By ElizabethKAS

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