Ecofriendly schools for a brighter future

Image: Leo Rivas /

Modern civilisation is already starting to wear on our planet. We care about the environment and about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – but how do we practise what we preach? This is one subject where teachers should not hesitate to learn along with their students.

To estimate the probability of intelligent life in the galaxy, the Drake equation famously uses the longevity of a technical civilisation as one of its parameters. As Carl Sagan put it, “Civilisations might take billions of years of tortuous evolution to arise, and then snuff themselves out in an instant of unforgivable neglect.”

There are many approaches teachers and schools can take to explore this issue with their students. Here are three projects for inspiration:

Ecological, what else?

How much water and energy do teachers and students consume? Can waste be separated or, even better, avoided? Does your school offer enough sports and ecologically sustainable meals? These are not just theoretical questions, at least not for the project Ecological, what else? Sustainable schools on the fast lane in Europe.

Through workshops and mobility opportunities, the partner schools strove to improve their conditions and potentially become certified ÖKOLOG Schools. Since they were all in different parts of Europe, they were able to gain inspiration from their colleagues’ differing standards and practices with respect to ecology. The partner schools came up with worksheets, measures, quizzes and questionnaires on many topics, for example waste management.They also jointly produced a cookbook, and, in order to analyse the students’ need and potential for sports, they conducted a series of interviews:

Aside from being sustainable in focus, the partnership was also sustainable in nature: it reused conclusions from previous national programmes and passed on its own results.

Ecological, what else? was an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership among 6 countries: Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia and Turkey. It ran from 2014 to 2016 and was labelled a success story and good practice example

On the road to sustainable development

According to UNESCO’s Global Action Programme, sustainability shouldn’t just be a box to tick in the school curriculum. It should permeate the whole school culture – its values, activities and policies. That was also the goal of the ECORoad project, whose full title reads: “Improving education for sustainable development through development of school culture”.

The project organised five international meetings and four training sessions. Notably, it also produced the booklet A Road Map to an ESD school, which contains examples of development activities used in the partner schools, structured around Schoen’s model of four key dimensions:

  • professional orientation;
  • organisational structure;
  • teaching and learning;
  • student-centred focus.

A comparison between the project’s pre- and post-surveys shows that staff and students became more aware of sustainable development by the end. For instance, one teacher said: “The participation groups are a good way to teach students a sense of responsibility,” like “being responsible for feeding the fish.”

ECORoad was an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership among four countries: Belgium, Iceland, Finland and the United Kingdom. It ran from 2016 to 2018 and was labelled a good practice example.

Six ornithological NGOs, thousands of classrooms

Nature education brings many benefits: it sets the stage for personal well-being, it promises a more sustainable future for communities, and it develops competences that will help children in other fields of learning. And yet it does not feature much in early childhood and primary education. The project Empowering teachers and pupils for a better life through nature tries to amend that by producing high-quality supporting materials, organising training sessions and building networks at a national and European level. The focus was on teachers from rural areas and small towns: 60 of them took part in the training sessions, 342 attended the events, and over 2360 were reached through other means.

The educational resources are available in all the partners’ languages in downloadable format and in an app: through them, students can learn about bird migration, flying routes, conservation measures, biodiversity and more.

Bird nests

The YouTube channel of the parent project, Spring Alive, also contains many video tutorials filmed on site.

 The project was an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership among six countries: the Czech Republic, Ireland, North Macedonia, Poland, Slovakia and Spain. It ran from 2016 to 2018 and was labelled a good practice example.

 To discover ongoing and past EU-funded projects in school education, please go to the Erasmus+ Project Results Platform.