Sustainability Education and the 7 Critical Skills for Graduates

Last week, I was honored to speak on a panel at the Massachusetts Association of SchoolCommittees/Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents conference in Hyannis, MA. Before my panel on ‘the sustainability agenda in schools’ I was able to watch the keynote speaker, Tony Wagner, the first Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard.

Mr. Wagner’s presentation discussed his book, the Global Achievement Gap, which identifies 7 survival skills for career, college, and citizenship through extensive research and interviews with business leaders, community leaders, educators, and recent high school and college graduates. I couldn’t help but notice that the 7 survival skills closely align with the educational objectives of sustainability education.

1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Being a successful employee today means analyzing what you learn and seeking your own answers. You can’t look to your executive for answers. To succeed you need to be able to find them yourself.

2.  Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence

Employees must be able to work with a variety of stakeholders and develop leadership skills that rely on influence rather than authority.

3.  Agility and Adaptability

Successful businesses are able to quickly change to meet market demands. Employees must be able to seamlessly fit into many roles by learning quickly and adapting to new initiatives.

4.   Initiative and Entrepreneurialism

To be a leader in the world economy, businesses must be innovative. Innovation is no longer the job of the executives. At many successful companies, failure is encouraged because it means you’re experimenting with new ideas. Eventually, one of those ideas will succeed and push the company ahead of the competition.

5.  Effective Oral and Written Communication

This seems obvious, but many recent graduates cannot effectively communicate their ideas because they lack thinking and reasoning skills. Without these skills they can’t develop a coherent and persuasive argument.

6.  Accessing and Analyzing Information

Students are accustomed to receiving rapid information from the Internet. However, the successful employee must know how to decipher the information to decide what is credible and applicable. They also know how to think critically about the information to make good decisions.

7.  Curiosity and Imagination

This is the springboard for innovation. Companies want every level of employee to want to have the next big idea.

As defined by GEF, Sustainability Education provides educators with the real-world applied learning models that connect science, technology, and math education with the broader human concerns of environmental, economic, and social systems.  This definition removes the silo of subject based learning to connect important themes across subject areas and with the greater world. Through sustainability education, students learn to interpret and analyze information, convey the results effectively, and even imagine solutions. The best example is GEF’s Green Building Course. After completing 6 units and their corresponding hands-on audits, students analyze and recommend building improvements based upon feasibility, greatest need and return-on-investment (ROI).

We must continue to ask students to research, write, and have ideas of their own to foster the next generation of successful sustainability minded citizens!

About Green Education Foundation (GEF)

Mission Green Education Foundation (GEF), a non-profit organization, is committed to creating a sustainable future through education. Sustainability Education provides educators with the real-world applied learning models that connect science, technology, and math education with the broader human concerns of environmental, economic, and social systems. GEF provides curriculum and resources to K-12 students and teachers worldwide with the goal of challenging youth to think holistically and critically about global environmental concerns and solutions. Visit to register for free and to gain full access to GEF’s comprehensive library of standards-based lessons and activities.
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3 Responses to Sustainability Education and the 7 Critical Skills for Graduates

  1. Schalk says:

    Hi there,

    I was wondering if you have some posts especially on strategies that parents might use to raise their kids for sustainability? I am currently writing a comprehensive manual for sustainable living (current version available here: and would like to upgrade the recommendations for parents raising children for sustainable living.

    This is crucially important. If we raise another generation of hyper-consumers, the 21st century most certainly will not end well.

  2. Hi there! I am so sorry for the major delay in responding to you!! I promise comments do not usually slip through the cracks 🙂 To answer your question, GEF doesn’t have anything specifically for parents. However, our K-12 Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse entries can be adopted for the home. They’d provide some fun ideas for activities and projects to do with your children to begin the discussion about sustainability. The most important thing we can do is educate the next generation! When you understand the consequences of your actions, living a sustainable lifestyle becomes a no-brainer.

    Thanks again for your comment.


  3. Pingback: How YOU Can Set Yourself Apart From Others in the Job Market | Green Education Foundation (GEF)

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