Careers In Sustainability

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Students explore non-traditional careers related to sustainability and sustainable development.

Summary

Students will:

  • Explore a variety of careers that involve issues of sustainability or sustainable development
  • Explore career and post-secondary pathways related to issues of sustainability or sustainable development
  • Recognize the interrelationship between social, economic and environmental issues and relate these to careers in sustainability
  • Relate topics being studied in the science classroom to their applications in the workplace
  • Reflect on their career goals and whether a career related to sustainability or sustainable development might be a good fit for them

Setting the Stage

When students hear the words “sustainability” and “sustainable development” they often think of environmental protection, conservation, green energy and green initiatives. Similarly, thoughts of careers linked to this area are often limited to those of environmental scientists, lawyers or others involved in protecting the environment. While these are all careers related to sustainability, they are far from the only ones.

Sustainability and sustainable development refer to the idea that our society has to be organized in a way to ensure it can exist in the long term. In other words, when we build, manufacture or create the things we use, we need to do so in a way that will not destroy our Earth. Sustainability means we use our natural resources in a manner that both protects the environment and allows our society and industries to grow and prosper. To achieve this goal, the United Nations has developed 17 Sustainable Development goals as a “call to action” to transform our world.

While the most visible people working in sustainable development are often those who advocate on environmental issues, many careers related to sustainable development are not as visible. For example, many industries and municipalities are taking steps to ensure their practices are sustainable as well as environmentally friendly. To do this they hire people with backgrounds in chemistry, mapping, ecology, Artificial Intelligence, and engineering to name a few.

In this lesson, students will explore a variety of careers that involve actions to achieve sustainable development. These careers include those in the “green economy”, renewable energy, food security, and more. They will assess these careers to identify how each relates to sustainability and reflect on their goals, and if similar careers could be right for them.

Materials & Preparation

  • Students should have a good understanding of sustainability and sustainable development
  • Arrange for computer and internet access for students working individually or in groups. For a no-tech setting, print sufficient copies of profiles.
  • Careers in Sustainability - Anticipation Guide Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF] (1 per student or group of students) - provide as a paper or e-copy
  • Careers in Sustainability - Anticipation Guide Reproducible Answer Key [Google Doc] [PDF] (for teacher)
  • Careers in Sustainability - Key Ideas Round Robin Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF] (1 per student or group of students) - provide as a paper or e-copy
  • Careers in Sustainability - Assignment Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF] (1 per student) - provide as a paper or e-copy
  • Careers in Sustainability - Profile Collection Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF] (1 per student or group of students) - provide as a paper or e-copy
  • Careers in Sustainability - Exit Slip Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF] (1 per student or group of students) - provide as a paper or e-copy

What To Do

Part 1: Activating Prior Knowledge

In this part of the lesson, students examine their personal conceptions of what it means to have a career that addresses sustainability issues.

  • To start this lesson and activate prior knowledge, teachers could use the Anticipation Guide learning strategy. After they have completed the Careers in Sustainability Anticipation Guide, students could share their responses with a partner, explaining their thinking. Teachers could then indicate that, with the exception of the last question, only one is True. Do not give specifics as they will come back to this at the end of the lesson (the first three are either false or only partially true).
  • Before going further, teachers should ensure students have a good understanding of sustainability and sustainable development. This could involve a class discussion that addresses the differences and similarities between sustainability, conservation, environmental protection and sustainable development. The interrelationship of society, environment and our economy could also be addressed.
  • To introduce the idea that studying sustainability and sustainable development can lead to interesting careers, teachers could provide each student with a copy of the Sustainable Careers Key Ideas Round Robin.
    • Individually, students should list up to four things they feel are characteristics of a career related to sustainability.
    • Following the process of the Key Ideas Round Robin learning strategy, students should then share their ideas with a partner, coming up with two ideas they both agree with.
    • Next, the teacher should have each pair partner with another pair to form quads. Each quad will share their two ideas and agree upon one thing they all feel is a characteristic of a career related to sustainability.
    • Teachers could conclude by having each quad share their key idea and explain why they chose it. If student ideas reflect stereotypical views of careers in sustainability, teachers should flag these for follow up at the end of the lesson.
  • Remaining in their quad, teachers could have students brainstorm a list of as many careers they can that relate to sustainability or sustainable development.
    • Where they are not sure of the career title, they could describe the job duties the person does that promotes sustainable development.
    • These careers can be actual careers that they are aware of (e.g., “environmental lawyer”) or careers they think should exist (e.g., “This person who makes sure that the habitats of migratory birds are not turned into parking lots”).
  • After they have completed their list, each group could share one of their career ideas with the class. Teachers could record the suggested careers (or what the person does) electronically or on chart paper using a table such as the following. Each group will continue sharing until all the career ideas have been listed.
Name of Career/Title What does this person do? What are their duties? How does this career relate to sustainability?
   
   
   

Part 2: Sustainability Careers Exploration

In this part of the lesson, students will learn about some of the people and careers that address issues related to sustainability.

  • Teachers could provide each student with access to the Careers in Sustainability – Profile Collection. If students are working offline, sufficient copies of each profile will need to be printed or saved as PDFs.
  • Students should review 3 to 5 of the profiles provided. From the profiles provided, each student could select the career they found most interesting. This can be done individually or in pairs.
  • Students will examine these profiles and complete the table in the Careers in Sustainability Assignment Reproducible. From these 5 profiles, students should select the one that is of greatest interest to them (i.e., they want to learn more about this career, they find this career interesting). Reflecting on this profile, students should answer the questions that follow on this Reproducible.
  • After students have completed their responses to these questions, teachers could facilitate a “peer sharing” session. If students completed the questions individually, they could share their thinking with a partner. Where the questions were completed by pairs, a quad group could be formed for sharing.
  • After peer sharing has taken place, teachers could provide an opportunity for students to bring any questions or thoughts forward. Teachers could ask for volunteers to share information about the career they explored. Teachers could ask if any of these “sustainability careers” surprised them. Did it change their definition of “sustainability career”?
  • Teachers should have students revisit their Anticipation Guide and complete the “After” column. After students have completed this column teachers could share that the first three are not true as stated. (#1: while a background in biology, ecology or environment might be helpful, it is not essential; there are engineers doing sustainability work who do not have much knowledge in these areas. #2: While this might be the ultimate effect, sometimes the career is focused on how the industry can do it’s work without violating policies that protect the environment; it is not really “all about” protecting the environment. #3: many people working in sustainability careers rarely or never work outside in the environment; e.g., a municipal planner would do most of their work on a computer).
  • To conclude this lesson, teachers could have students complete the Exit Slip.

Details

Assessment

  • Teachers could observe and make anecdotal notes while students are engaged in Key Idea Round Robin discussions.
  • Student responses on the Careers in Sustainability Assignment could be collected and individual feedback provided.
  • Teachers could collect student Exit Slips and provide individual feedback.

Assessment

  • Teachers could observe and make anecdotal notes while students are engaged in Key Idea Round Robin discussions.
  • Student responses on the Careers in Sustainability Assignment could be collected and individual feedback provided.
  • Teachers could collect student Exit Slips and provide individual feedback.

Extension

Extension

Downloads

  • Careers in Sustainability - Anticipation Guide Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF]
  • Careers in Sustainability - Anticipation Guide Answer Key Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF]
  • Careers in Sustainability - Key Ideas Round Robin Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF]
  • Careers in Sustainability - Assignment Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF]
  • Careers in Sustainability - Profile Collection Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF]
  • Careers in Sustainability - Exit Slip Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF]

Downloads

  • Careers in Sustainability - Anticipation Guide Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF]
  • Careers in Sustainability - Anticipation Guide Answer Key Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF]
  • Careers in Sustainability - Key Ideas Round Robin Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF]
  • Careers in Sustainability - Assignment Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF]
  • Careers in Sustainability - Profile Collection Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF]
  • Careers in Sustainability - Exit Slip Reproducible [Google Doc] [PDF]