Curriculum emphasizing sustainability critical to educating next generation of environmental leaders

As climate changes the livability of our towns, cities and planet, should the state education systems include sustainable living courses in their common core standards, for the current generation and the generations to come? Optimistic citizens always say the youth will lead the way, and maybe making sustainability courses will inspire youth to find solutions for the problems created by previous generations.

Now, what is sustainable living, you may ask? Sustainable living is the practice or lifestyle that attempts to reduce the use of earth’s natural resources, also referred to zero waste living or zero net living. 

What are future generations up against in dealing with climate change? How can we live smarter in the upcoming years, to reduce the impact of climate change? According to the CDC( Center for Disease control and prevention), some of the things we can do on our part to live smart are activities like making sustainable food choices, understanding where our food is coming from and the manner in which it was produced. Other examples are using alternative transportation, making green updates to our homes, purchasing green products and recycled electronics. That is just a few suggestions, of course.

In the state of Iowa according to the Iowa Environmental Council, some of the sustainable efforts that have been made in the pursuit of clean energy are using the abundant wind and solar resources of the state. Iowa ranked second nationally in the amount of wind energy installed with 12,000 megawatts by the end of 2021, supporting nearly 4000 Iowa jobs. The future employment of the current youth will likely be expanding into more clean energy jobs. Wouldn’t more education in sustainable living included in the current Iowa curriculum be a good idea? At the Iowa State Department of Education, Administrative Consultant Gwen Nagel responded to these questions about changing school curriculums.


Do standards of education and curriculum change according to what society requires to progress in a positive way?

One would hope that is true. Sometimes standards change in response to research. Often 

political agendas also influence state and national standards through legislation.


What is the process the Iowa Department of Education goes through to add or change standards? Can parents, students and teachers be involved?  Generally, whether or not we implement state standards depends upon the state legislative directive to do so. They are generally due for updating after about ten years, but there is no specific mandate. If the state does not have a standards directive for a specific content area, we often refer to any existing national standards. Also, keep in mind that Iowa is a “local control” state, so standards are implemented at the local district level in the manner they find most suitable and effective for their community of students.



If we follow the research and data regarding climate change, there seems to be an urgency in the need for more education in zero waste living. Based on what Nagel is saying, our local government and our district and education system will have to decide or propose curriculum changes if students are not receiving enough information about sustainable living. Imagine if youth could decide what is in their best interest to learn, especially in respect to fighting climate change and fixing what is breaking our environments on our towns, cities and planet? Like they say, “Youth will lead the way.” We have no choice!

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