As I work on this blog, I hope to share useful resources through my posts. Here is a collection of resources I have used so far. I hope that it will grow as time goes, perhaps with your help! You may also find additional links on my Delicious account tagged with sustainability.
Please note that I find TED talks personally fascinating and a great educational tool, if not with the kids, then at least for educating myself. On that note, I have a separate page for TED talks I find particularly relevant to my thoughts on sustainability and/or education.
350.org – One of the best-designed climate change sites out there. According to them, “350 is the most important number in the world—it’s what scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” Great videos, campaigns, and amazing design. Appropriate for middle and high school, depending on the video and campaign.
Gapminder – Statistics made sexy. Exploring the world’s trends using interactive, customized graphs. Widely diffused through Hans Roling’s TED about the “Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen.” Appropriate for middle to high school students and can be tweaked to be quite simple or incredibly intricate.
Information is Beautiful – “Ideas, Issues, Knowledge, Data – Visualized.” Beautiful visualizations of trends, hot topics, etc. Appropriateness varies depending on visualization. Usually for upper middle or high school.
All is One Wombat: A short, entertaining video about the interconnectedness of, well, everything. Theme for Earth Day 2009 at the International School of Tianjin. Appropriate for all.
The Man Who Planted Trees: A beautifully animated French book about, obviously, planting trees. A bit terrifying for elementary students but definitely packs a powerful and aesthetically engaging message.
The Story of Stuff – 20 minutes of brilliantly produced work by Annie Leonard all about where all of our ‘stuff’ that we consume comes from and where it goes. Excellent. Appropriate for high school.
The Story of Cap and Trade – Annie Leonard’s second, much more controversial production. Here is a great counter-argument. Presenting both gives students the chance to dig deeper, think critically, and form their own opinions. Appropriate for high school.
Meet the Greens – As they say, “a site for kids looking after the planet.” Chock-full of excellent videos and other goodies. Appropriate for elementary, though I wouldn’t doubt that middle school and even high school students would learn a few things.
The Meatrix – An extremely well-done animation warning against the dangers of factory farming by spoofing The Matrix. Also links to The Meatrix II and the Meatrix II1/2. Although the animation will appeal to young students, chances are only students in upper elementary and above will truly appreciate the deeper message. Controversial at times, but certainly worth the conversation.
The BioDaversity Code – A great animation about the interconnectedness of the diversity of life, spoofing The DaVinci Code. The animation will appeal to all students and the message is simple but powerful enough for everyone to appreciate.
Free Range Studios – As they say, “creativity with a conscience.” Clearly politically-biased, but they have created and supported some excellent videos, such as The Meatrix and The Story of Stuff linked above. Definitely worth looking.
FoodCorps – New US national school garden and Farm to School service program. In the early planning stages (as of early 2011). Very exciting initiative and brilliant promo video. Visit their site here. Good inspiration to show kids making promo videos or launching a new idea.
There are probably more environmental blogs than you can shake a stick at.
Grist is a self-proclaimed “beacon in the smog” and generally makes for pretty excellent reading.
Good Magazine – An “integrated media platform” for those who want to do good. Not always sustainability focused, but usually very interesting. Appropriate for upper high school and self-education.
Urgent Evoke – A superbly well-designed online game, a “10 week crash course in changing the world.” The first run is over, but it appears you can still play if you get a group together. I haven’t had the chance to do it yet, but it looks fun, and I do always appreciate great design. It states that it’s appropriate for ages 13 and up.
Crossroad Life X-perience (simulation) – Based in Hong Kong, Crossroads offers a series of simulations at their global village to give students a taste of what it’s like to live in the slums. Many different programs on offer. I haven’t yet had a chance to visit them, but having heard them speak at a previous conference and participated in a simulation, I feel they have some high quality (and highly emotive) material to offer.
26 Learning Games for Change – A collection of games related to all sorts of global issues from poverty to global warming. Some are better than others, but it’s worth exploring.
Scale of the Universe – OK, so this isn’t exactly sustainability-related, but it’s wicked fun. If we’re talking about saving the planet, it’s worth putting it all into perspective, isn’t it?
BobieBigFoot – An attractive site for helping kids figure out their carbon footprint. Probably not the most accurate, but certainly appealing to students.
Free the Children – FTC’s founder Craig Kilburger will surely will the Nobel Peace Prize before it’s all said and done. An organization on the motto “Children helping children through education.” Doesn’t get much better than that, does it?
Facing the Future – Very well-designed curriculum, aligned with US standards, but easily adapted and applied to all curricula. Great for stimulating thinking and work on sustainability, global issues, and future thinking.
David Hicks’ Website – David Hicks produces some fantastic thinking and teaching resources for including a global and futures’ dimension. Much of his work has been adapted and widely used. Preferable/probable futures, consequence wheels, and more!
Skeptical Science – Know a climate change skeptic? I do. A great site for examining some of the most common skeptic arguments and dissecting them.
Eco-Geek – Just like it sounds. Technology for the environment. While we should be wary of the “technology as a savior” train of thought when it comes to sustainability, there are some fantastically cool tech innovations coming out and they will most certainly play their important part!
TakeITGlobal – A huge organization that “uses the power of online community to facilitate global education, social entrepreneurship, and civic engagement for millions of youth worldwide.” Combining an online forum for connecting and an education program for middle to high school students. Many connections to be made!
Idealist.org -Want to do something good but don’t know where to start? Have a new project but need supporters? Want to make a career out of doing “good?” This site aims to bring people together. A search for the word “sustainability” yields well over 7,500 results.
All offline resources I will link to Wikipedia or Amazon.com pages for easy reference. There, it’s easy enough to find links to purchase the resources or find out more information.
Food, Inc. (2009) – Narrated by two of my personal heroes, Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, this documentary exposes the state of food in the United States. Though the messages are very American, the bigger theme of the changing status of food is relevant for all. The documentary itself is well done and conveniently (and appropriately) broken into chapters for easy viewing in class. I highly recommend reading both Omnivore’s Dilemma (Pollan) and Fast Food Nation (Schlosser), as the arguments made in the document are explored at a much more complex level in the books.
Planet Earth (2006) – If you haven’t yet seen this amazing TV series produced by the BBC, you are seriously missing out. It is so important to show students the beauty of what it is we’re really trying to save, anyway.
An Inconvenient Truth (2006) – If you haven’t heard of this, you’re living under some sort of sustainability rock. The Al Gore classic.
Sharkwater (2007) – A brilliant documentary to expose the danger sharks are in, not the danger sharks pose. Colleagues of mine who are also passionate divers first introduced this documentary to me and it was great for getting students educated and excited about this issue on Earth Day 2009.
The Cove (2009) – An Oscar-winning documentary about the killing of dolphins in Taji, Japan and a wide variety of other issues about dolphins, whaling, mercury levels in fish, etc. Introduced to me by the same passionate divers as Sharkwater,it brings a lot of issues that I didn’t previously know about to light. Certainly makes Sea World feel a bit different.
Ashes and Snow – A beautiful art installation showing the beauty of humanity and animals together. Really stunning. The film is beautiful and transcends all languages – great for international schools!
Baraka (1992) – As IMDB describes, “a movie with no conventional plot: merely a collection of expertly photographed scenes. Subject matter has a highly environmental theme.” Breathtaking!
11th Hour (2007) – Leonardo DiCaprio’s consciousness-raising film about the environment. Not the most groundbreaking documentary, ever, but certainly well done. Maybe if Leo regains his “heartthrob” status, it’ll get the teenage girls involved. Until then, maybe someone can convince Robert Pattinson to do a documentary?
Crude Impact (2006) – A documentary about the impact of fossil fuels. I so badly wanted to love this, but I honestly found it very sleepy. Still, bits and pieces may be worth showing in class.
High Noon: 20 Global Issues and 20 Years to Solve Them (J.F. Rischard) – This book is the basis for the EARCOS GIN conference for high school students as well as the IB Community Theme. It postulates, in a very brief summary, that there are 20 global issues, 20 years to solve them, and that one of the best models for doing so is by forming Global Issues Networks (GIN). Personally, I found the first and last thirds of the book engaging, but the middle third extremely dry. In my humble opinion, Rischard’s attempt to “get to the point” makes the book, from a literary perspective, a rather lackluster read. Still, it’s sparked a pretty huge movement and is an important read.
The World Is Flat (Thomas L. Friedman) – This is my favorite type of non-fiction book. Well-written and researched, Friedman describes globalization (and really, the modern and future world) in a thick, but pleasing-to-read book. Rischard also quotes him frequently, and I would recommend going to Friedman rather than hearing it through Rischard, who doesn’t quite have Friedman’s flare for writing.
Fast Food Nation (Eric Schlosser) – This is one of the first books that really helped me to understand the importance and impact of food on all facets of sustainability: environment, economy, society, and individual well-being. Though thick, it’s worth it. Schlosser is a writer who can hit you with facts and reel you in with emotion.
Omnivore’s Dilemma (Michael Pollan) – I read this after Fast Food Nation and loved it more. By digging into four meals (fast food, ‘big organic,’ ‘small organic,’ and hunter-forager), Pollan explores the state of food today in America. You will learn a lot about corn. I gave shout-outs to Charlottesville, VA (where I went to university). But, really, it is a fantastically well-written and extremely thought-provoking book. Apparently there is now a kids’ version, though I haven’t had a chance to get my hands on it yet.
Cradle-to-Cradle (William McDonough and Michael Braungart) – Just holding the book is astounding, as it is made out of a totally different material than what one would commonly find. It explores the idea that to solve our environmental woes, we need to stop accepting the “lesser of evils,” such as plastic or paper bags (neither of which are good for the environment) and engage in a new industrial revolution where goods are designed not from production to consumer, but cradle-to-cradle. An extremely important concept, though a sometimes overwhelming one.
Gummy Bear Wars – I created a “sustainability simulation” using gummy bears to help students and colleagues understand what sustainability means. Really, an illustration of renewable v. non-renewable resources and how to manage them effectively. The link is to a video of students from the International School of Tianjin participating in the simulation. If you’d like the materials to do the activity, just let me know.