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Lesson Plans

Becoming agents for change through the Sustainable Development Goals

April 13, 2021



Full Lesson


For a google doc version of this lesson, click here.


The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) provide a lens through which to consider how we can positively impact the world around us. The SDGs were created in 2015 by the United Nations and are meant to be achieved by the year 2030. With so many challenges taking place throughout the world, the SDGs provide a framework to pinpoint global and local issues that we can help to address. This lesson introduces students to the SDGs, connects SDGs across cultures and explores how we can work towards a healthier, happier and more peaceful world.

ESSENTIAL QUESTION: How can we connect global and local issues using the SDGs as we work towards positive change?

ESTIMATED TIME: 50-minute introductory lesson with a 50-minute extension activity

GRADES: 9-12 (may also work for some middle school students)


  • Students will be able to identify and explain SDGs.
  • Students will be able to connect SDGs with a video from PBS NewsHour’s Agents for Change series.
  • Students will be able to discuss the similarities and differences between South Africa and the United States in regard to issues of water.

Extension objective: In the extension, students will be able to explore and summarize an article of choice from PBS’ Agents for Change website. They will be given the opportunity to research local and global organizations doing work related to an SDG and brainstorm actions to address an SDG.

WARM-UP ACTIVITY (10 minutes)
1. Examine the attached UN Sustainable Development chart that details the 17 SDGs.
2. Read the 17 goals with the class or read on your own. For two minutes, brainstorm which two SDGs you see as the most important in your own life.
3. Pair-share or share with a small group. Share your goals and explain why you think they’re important to your current life. (Optional: Share our with the larger class.)

MAIN ACTIVITY (40 minutes)

Use this graphic organizer to keep track of your work.

1. As you watch the video, consider what you think the SDGs as a whole might be. Watch the 3-minute video titled “The Sustainable Development Goals: Improve Life Around the Globe.”

2. Participants discuss thoughts and reactions to SDGs as a class. If necessary, further explore the SDGs as outlined on the UN SDG website.

3. Watch an 8-minute video from PBS’s series Agents for Change that addresses global issues: “How failing infrastructure and climate change leaves many South Africans without water.” As you watch, identify which SDGs apply to the story.

4. Pair-share or share in small groups discussing the following question: Which SDG(s) did you notice in the video and what makes you think this?

5. Share out and discuss with the whole class and discuss which SDGs apply (#3: Good Health and Well Being, #6: Clean Water and Sanitation, #9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, #10: Reduced Inequalities, #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, #12: Responsible Consumption and Production).

6. Read on your own or with the class the following article from Time Magazine titled “America’s Clean Water Crisis Goes Far Beyond Flint. There’s No Relief in Sight” (Optional: Extract portions of the article if it’s too long or have students examine the photos instead).

7. Pair-share or share with the whole class, discussing the following questions: Which facts surprised you in this article? What connections can you make between the video of South Africa and The United States?

8. As we wrap up the lesson, re-examine the SDGs chart. Which SDG do you think is the most pressing globally? The extension activity will have you explore an SDG of your choice.

1. Browse the Agents for Change website, skimming articles and videos.
2. Choose an article or video that interests you.
3. Read the article, considering which SDG it could connect with.
4. Using the template, create your own slide, summarizing the article, researching local and global organizations doing work related to your SDG, and create 4 ways to take action on the SDG.


C3 Framework

D2.Geo.8.6-8. Analyze how relationships between humans and environments extend or contract spatial patterns of settlement and movement.

D2.Geo.8.9-12. Evaluate the impact of economic activities and political decisions on spatial patterns within and among urban, suburban, and rural regions.

Common Core

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.2: Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7: Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Chris Erickson is a National Board Certified Teacher who teachers IB Literature, Creative Writing, and is a CAS & Service Coordinator in Michigan. He has a passion for global education and believes that working towards a more peaceful world starts in the classroom. Besides teaching, Chris enjoys international travel, spending time in nature, and reading.