EFS and PK-12 Developmentally Appropriate Scope & Sequence

Education for Sustainability leverages students’ developmental needs and innate curiosity to take what is important and relevant to children and use that to build curriculum that is rigorous, relevant, and relationship-based, so that they can become citizens engaged in building sustainable communities. 

In order to care for the world– from our backyards to the other side of the globe—we must first get to know this place and fall in love with it.  In the early years, we engage children’s innate sense of wonder and natural curiosity as they explore our world through inquiry; the curriculum makes connections to relevant issues and to prior experiences.  This builds students’ content knowledge and understanding of the big ideas of sustainability.  As children grow, this strong foundation of connection to their place develops in a sense of stewardship. Through civic engagement and service-learning we can deepen students’ sense of responsibility, building on their knowledge, and eventually developing into habits of caring and action. (Special thanks to our colleague, Ewa Smuk, in Poland for helping us develop this graphic.)


Place-based education (PBE), or Place-based learning, immerses students in local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities and experiences, using these as a foundation for the study of language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and other subjects across the curriculum. PBE emphasizes learning through participation in service projects for and with the local school and/or community. Place-based education expert David Sobel says “authentic environmental commitment emerges out of firsthand experiences with real places on a small, manageable scale.” This graphic suggests a developmentally appropriate K-12 sequence of a child’s ever-expanding sense of place.

Because these ideas are so complex, it can be useful to develop a scope and sequence within or across grades to identify where each big idea will be used as a central focus for developing curriculum.  When applied in this way, the ideas can build upon one another.  This is just one suggestion on how the Big Ideas could be applied across the grades. It can be dowloaded here.

Even within the same district schools may decide to have a different sequence of Big Ideas but what is critical is that the school community works on developing this together.  Here are some examples from schools we've worked with:

Sustainability Academy's K-5 Scope & Sequence
Charlotte Central School's K-8 Scope & Sequence

SSP's Suggested K-12 Scope & Sequence

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