Sustainability Education in Action: Three Inspiring Case Studies

Updated: Jan 31, 2021


Raising awareness of environmental issues and understanding of the Sustainable Development Goals (the ‘Global Goals’ or ‘SDGs’) is vital to bringing about positive change. Education must be a big part of the solution and there are many inspiring examples of schools and other education organizations that are pioneering change and inspiring others to do the same.


The successful integration of environmental and sustainability education within formal and informal learning in schools and education organizations (such as NGOs) helps to bridge the gap between environmental issues and social justice matters – across science and the humanities. The Global Goals provide an effective framework for engaging youth in complex sustainability matters. As teachers and youth educators, we must seize every opportunity we can to embed education for sustainability within classroom and outdoor learning, working across ideas and disciplines where appropriate, and building healthy relationships with community partners, whenever possible.


Case Study 1: School 21 and the Sustainable Development Goals


School 21 is an all-through free school established in 2012. It is located in Stratford in London, England. The cohorts are intentionally small, with 70 students per year group.


School 21 in Stratford, London incorporates the Sustainable Development Goals into teaching and learning
School 21 in Stratford, London incorporates the Sustainable Development Goals into teaching

Education at School 21 is focused on an even balance of head (academics), heart (character and well-being) and hand (generating ideas, problem solving and making). In part, this is achieved through project-based learning (which they term Real World Learning Projects, or RWLPs for short). Projects are designed to combine rigor and motivation to solve real-world problems. Each one is based on an inquiry question.


“Students were motivated to really battle with seriously challenging maths and written reports, with no guarantee of success, because of the very real and tangible chance to make change: they had genuine agency.”

One project in 2017 set out to answer the question: “Can our mathematics help Stratford decide if three new concrete factories are too dirty?” They used algebraic modeling to analyze the impact of the planned factories on air pollution in the nearby Olympic Park with the aim of informing an ‘authentic’ audience (the planning permission panel). Working with the mathematician Elsa Aristodemou and the journalist Emilia Papadopoulos, the students appeared on the BBC London Evening News and soon after the factory development was denied planning permission. Collectively, they had made a significant impact on Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities backed-up by reasoned scientific arguments.



One of the project teachers, Jess Hughes said: “Students were motivated to really battle with seriously challenging maths and written reports, with no guarantee of success, because of the very real and tangible chance to make change: they had genuine agency.”


For more information on School 21, go to: www.school21.org.uk.


Case Study 2: Down to Earth Project


The Down to Earth Project is an award winning not-for-profit social enterprise located near Swansea, Wales. Since its inception in 2006, thousands of vulnerable and excluded young people and adults have taken part in addressing social inequality and tackling sustainability in the community.


"Imagine if the most vulnerable and excluded groups were given the opportunities to not only thrive but to create change we want to see – a genuinely sustainable world." - Down to Earth Project