Teaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

There has been some controversy at the United Nations recently while world leaders ramp up their rhetoric in pursuit of their goals. But while leaders from the US and the UK draw the lion’s share of the attention, other things are happening in the background to address issues like world hunger and inequity. The US defense secretary says we need to move more towards inspiration rather than intimidation. One major effort in moving to an inspirational model is the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since Global Goals Week is just finishing up, it seems like the perfect time to look at these goals and see how they can be addressed with students.

Explaining the SDGs

UN_SDG_Logo.pngFor those unfamiliar with them, the SDGs are a series of 17 global goals with 169 target points that were established in 2015 to guide nations and the world towards a better future generally and more specifically towards equity and sustainable development. The forward-thinking goals, officially known as Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, were formally adopted on September 25, 2015, by the 194 countries of the UN General Assembly, but they have their origins back in 1972 with the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. Some have argued that the goals are unsustainable and unwieldy, some have said economic and sustainability goals are contradictory, while others have challenged the goals for not being ambitious enough. While there is no perfect action to fulfill the needs of all people on earth, inaction is a far more heinous sin. For that reason, it seems both noble and necessary to make our best efforts to fulfill the UN SDGs and educate others on how to do the same.

Sustainable Development Goals

You can see them above, but let’s start by reviewing what the goals are. Follow the links to learn more about each

Learning the SDGs

Since goal 4 is about providing quality education, we can meet one goal while instructing about the rest. To do so the UN has provided a resource called The World’s Largest Lesson. It is an effort to bring the Global Goals and make them relevant to students around the world in multiple languages. The World’s Largest Lesson 2017 starts on the September 18th. To get involved teachers can:

Make Learning Active

As someone who believes that education is more meaningful when it is problem-centered, hands-on project-based learning, I wanted to bring that perspective towards teaching the SDGs. So with the World Maker Faire and the Global Goals both coming to the forefront this week, here are a few ideas to combine the power of both.


Despite often being maligned for their shortcomings, educators, through a rigorous curriculum and educational technology, have the power to address many of today’s ills and create a better tomorrow. You can start by guiding your students in responsibly joining the global community.

The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.

-Bill Gates

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