STEM Education for Sustainable Development
Every young person around the world should have access to the educational tools necessary to not only enter the workforce, but to develop knowledge, skills, and values that lead to continued prosperity and peace for themselves, those in their own community, and the planet at large. Sustainable Development is “development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (UNESCO) This kind of human progress necessitates embracing the underlying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) information, new research, concepts, and problem-solving skills that are the foundation for a sustainable and thriving society.
The Smithsonian Science Education Center seeks to support every young person to develop the knowledge and understanding of STEM subjects to enable them to tackle the world’s most pressing issues in their own communities and around world. Through the work that the Center has carried out since 1985, and the 2018 addition of the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals project and its associated learning framework,the Global Goals Action Progression, a more sustainable future can become a reality.
How is the Smithsonian Science Education Center approaching STEM Education for Sustainable Development?
At the Smithsonian Science Education Center, we believe that the foundation for truly sustainable development is through education, and specifically through educating youth in STEM subjects. To achieve this, we bring together materials designed for youth, teacher professional development, and leadership development for schools and communities to collectively prepare the next generation of learners to not only be workforce-ready, but be prepared to make change in their own communities to meet not only their own needs, but the needs of their fellow humans while also ensuring a successful future for the planet.
Engaging students to develop Sustainability Mindsets
Sustainability Mindsets are the outcomes for individual students taking part in a robust STEM Education for Sustainable Development program. (See image on the right)
By developing Sustainability Mindsets, young people are building new thought routines and habits that set them up to engage with global issues on a long-term basis. By developing the an understanding of Global-Local Interconnection, young people are also primed to investigate and explore how what is happening in their local community is connected to what is happening at a global level.
We bring together the work of: The Global Goals Action Progression and the Sustainability Mindsets bring together several different frameworks
- Inquiry-Based Science Education
- Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
- Place-Based Education
- Socio-Scientific Issues Education (SSI)
- Global Citizenship Education (GCED)
- Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)
- Civic Engagement
Young people become agents of change
By moving through the Global Goals Action Progression, and coming away with Sustainability Mindsets and Scientific Literacy, young people can become agents of change, working to solve global issues at a local level, and developing a lifelong investment in creating a more sustainable global future.
In 2016, in collaboration with the InterAcademy Partnership, we began developing free “community research guides” based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Each guide empowers youth ages 8 to 17 and their teachers to discover science in their community and use what they learn to make a difference.
Fostering a Culture of STEM Education for Sustainable Development
If you are interested in exploring what STEM Education for Sustainable Development looks like in your community, we invite you to explore our programmatic offerings:
- Building Awareness for Sustainable Education (BASE) - start sustainable education in your area
- Smithsonian Science for Global Goals - free community research guides for youth
- Always Think Like a Scientist (ATLAS) - a place-based afterschool program that uses near-peer mentoring to teach sustainability
- Network for Emergent Socio-Scientific Thinking (NESST) - join our movement to build students' sustainability mindsets (coming soon!)