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Curricula for Global Sustainability Education

Ignite your students' learning and inspire them to take action in their communities with our hands-on, standards-aligned global sustainability curricula!

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Engaging Students Through Global Issues: Activity-Based Lessons and Action Projects - Lesson Plan Book
Engaging Students Through Global Issues: Activity-Based Lessons and Action Projects - Lesson Plan Book

Teacher Lesson Plan Book
Engaging Students Through Global Issues is an activity-based lesson book that contains 40 inspiring lessons. These lesson plans are designed to help students understand complex global issues and sustainable solutions. Each lesson offers creative tools for students to take action in their local and global communities. 

ISBN 9780971100558
Price $24.95



Free Previews & Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Download the Table of Contents and PreviewDownload the complete table of contents



Service Learning and Community Action Projects

Guidelines to incorporate service learning and action projects into your classroom


Lesson 1: Crossword Puzzles

A fun way to introduce your students to global issues and sustainability vocabulary words and concepts. Includes an intermediate and advanced puzzle.


Lesson 2: Global Issues Trivia

Use this trivia game to test your students’ knowledge of global issues. Students collaborate in teams to answer questions about world population, economics, and environmental issues.


Lesson 3: Sides Debate

Students debate a controversial global issue standing on opposite sides of the room, organized by whether they agree or disagree with a statement provided by the teacher. This exercise is a great “hook” to get students interested in further study of global issues.


Lesson 4: Making Global Connections

Download Lesson 4: Making Global ConnectionsStudents demonstrate the interconnectedness of global issues and solutions through a kinesthetic exercise using global issue cards and a ball of yarn.



Lesson 5: From Issue to Opportunity

Download Lesson 5: From Issue to OpportunityHelp students understand and define global issues and the interconnections that tie them together. Students develop criteria for determining what makes an issue global in scope and then brainstorm, categorize, and prioritize the interconnections among them, and explore solutions.


Lesson 6: Is It Sustainable?

Students define and discuss sustainability and its 3 key components: the economy, the environment, and society. Students analyze the sustainability of a variety of actions taken by individuals, businesses, and governments, using a Venn diagram to help organize the process.


Lesson 7: Systems Are Dynamic

Students experience the dynamic, interconnected, and self-organizing nature of systems through an exercise in which they move around an open space trying to stay an equal distance between 2 other people. 


Lesson 8: Bears in the Air

Download Lesson 8: Bears in the AirThrough a game in which an object is tossed as fast as possible around a circle, students experience the limits of success, redesign their “tossing system” to meet their goal, and begin to identify assumptions that drive behavior.


Lesson 9: How Big is a Billion?

A short demonstration of what 1 billion looks like, using increasing amounts of rice to represent the world’s population. Students then create their own representations of 1 billion.


Lesson 10: Splash But Don’t Crash

Students see the effect of population growth rates on the Earth’s carrying capacity through an exercise in which they move water from a container representing births and deaths into another container representing the Earth.


Lesson 11: Seeking Asylum

Through a simulation, students experience the difficult choices and struggles facing refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) when they are forced to leave their homes. Students learn about the root causes of refugee and IDP crises, and the options and obstacles each group faces.


Lesson 12: Watch Where You Step!

Download Lesson 12: Watch Where You Step!Students identify the components of an Ecological Footprint by creating a web diagram of all the resources they use in their everyday lives and the mark or “footprint” this consumption leaves on the environment. The activity emphasizes the interconnectedness of lifestyle, population, and environmental impacts, and focuses on solutions to reduce Ecological Footprints. 


Lesson 13: Now Hear This!

Students literally see and hear a comparison of an average U.S. citizen’s and sub-Saharan African citizen’s Ecological Footprint through a demonstration in which popcorn kernels – representing Ecological Footprints – are poured into a metal pan.


Lesson 14: When the Chips Are Down

Students model 3 patterns of Ecological Footprint growth over 4 generations, using poker chips to represent Ecological Footprints and maps they create to represent countries. The activity emphasizes the impact of intensified population growth rates and consumption patterns over relatively few generations, and possible solutions.


Lesson 15: Farming for the Future

Through a simulation activity, students experience the challenges faced by subsistence farmers in the developing world. In “village” groups, students decide which crops they will plant over 2 seasons, which becomes complicated by the teacher’s random assignment of dry and wet years.


Lesson 16: Every Drop Counts!

A series of water-related lessons beginning with a water trivia game and a short demonstration of how much of the Earth’s water is available for human and other species’ needs. The series includes a “water walk” and a personal water-use audit.


Lesson 17: Fueling the Future

Students compare energy use and CO2 emissions by sector in the United States and China (and optionally in another country). They research and discuss energy impacts and sustainable energy solutions, write a resolution addressing energy use, and present their resolutions at a “World Energy Summit”.


Lesson 18: Biodiversity Connections

Students simulate biodiversity within an ecosystem by assuming the identities of resident plant and animal species in a forest stream ecosystem. Students investigate the functions of plant and animal species in the ecosystem, discover their interdependent relationships, and consider the importance of preserving biodiversity in nature.


Lesson 19: Toil for Oil

In this oil extraction simulation, students experience the increasing difficulty of extracting a limited, nonrenewable resource over several years. Students consider and discuss renewable energy resource options.


Lesson 20: Fishing for the Future

Download Lesson 20: Fishing for the FutureThrough a fishing simulation, students model several consecutive seasons of a fishery and explore how technology, population growth, and sustainable practices impact fish catch and fisheries management.



Lesson 21: What’s Up With the GDP?

In this economics simulation, students graph changes in the personal incomes of different community residents and in the community’s proportion of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) following an oil spill. The lesson explores the effect of an environmental disaster on the GDP, and the accuracy of GDP as a measurement of a community’s overall health.


Lesson 22: Livin’ the Good Life?

Students develop indicators to measure quality of life and conduct a survey of peers and adults to obtain data for their indicators. They analyze the survey data using spreadsheet software and then compare their own performance as measured by the quality of life indicators against averages determined by the survey results.


Lesson 23: What’s In The News?

In this media literacy activity, students use an “iceberg model” to analyze the global patterns and underlying structural causes that drive events in the news.


Lesson 24: Are You Buying This?!

Students work in groups to create and present mock television commercials for products linked to unsustainable or unhealthy behavior. Students first present the commercial as it would typically be seen on television, and then present it again incorporating the product’s negative impacts.


Lesson 25: Life: The Long and Short of It

Students compare life expectancy (a common indicator of good health) among several countries and discuss possible explanations for the differences. They also examine the connection between per capita expenditures on health care and life expectancy.


Lesson 26: Partners for Health

Students learn about the impact of today’s most urgent global health issues (such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis), and practical solutions to help address these issues. The activity concludes with a writing assignment in which students research and develop a proposal to address a particular global health issue.


Lesson 27: Three Faces of Governance

Students create a national energy policy via cooperation and negotiation among the 3 faces of governance: the State (Government), Civic Organizations, and the Private Sector. In groups representing each of these areas, students work to accomplish their individual policy goals while negotiating and forming coalitions with other groups to strengthen their overall energy policy.


Lesson 28: Taxes: Choices and Trade-offs

In this federal tax simulation lesson, students representing “special interest groups” discuss, recommend, and lobby for a budget allocation for federal tax spending. Interest groups include military, education, housing, healthcare, social security, and the environment. The exercise continues over consecutive years in which taxes are lowered and raised.


Lesson 29: Take a Step for Equity

Students are randomly assigned an economic class, and then hear poverty and wealth statistics describing their economic class as they step forward in a line. Ultimately, a distance is created between the wealthiest and the poorest, illustrating the economic gap between the rich and poor. Students brainstorm and discuss ways to alleviate poverty and hunger.


Lesson 30: Shop Till You Drop?

In this simulation, students experience how resources are distributed and used by different people based on access to wealth. Students discuss and work toward personal and structural solutions to help alleviate poverty.


Lesson 31: Let Them Eat Cake!

Cutting and distributing pieces of cake, which represent shares of natural resources that students must negotiate and allocate, illustrates the inequitable distribution of resources around the world and the interconnectedness of human economic and social activities and resource scarcity.


Lesson 32: Everyone Does Better When Women Do Better

Students enact the roles of citizens and government representatives from various countries at a "town meeting" forum. Citizens address their local government representative with concerns about the status of women and girls in their country and recommend potential solutions.


Lesson 33: What’s Debt Got to Do With It?

Students model the impact of debt on the social and economic health of developing countries. Working in “very poor country” groups, students choose how to allocate limited funds to different sectors of their country’s economy. The groups take on loans to help their country develop and experience what happens when their funds are diverted to debt repayment and away from investment.


Lesson 34: Microcredit for Sustainable Development

Students research a developing country and then apply for a $100 microcredit grant to start a small business, as if they were a person living in that country. A business plan and an illustrated poster are presented to a “sustainable development panel of experts” (students) who determine whether or not the business plan is economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.


Lesson 35: To Fight or Not to Fight?

Students examine a variety of international and intra-national conflicts through a role-playing activity. They learn to identify the roots of conflict, how to separate positions from interests in a conflict, and experience mediating a conflict.


Lesson 36: Worldview Mingle

With identity labels attached to their backs, students participate in an exercise in which they experience what it is like to stereotype and to be stereotyped. The identity labels are related to economic status, population, and the environment.


Lesson 37: Who Are the Nacirema?

Students read a short story about the body-related rituals of a cultural group called the Nacirema, and then use the same literary device employed in the original story to write their own short stories about rituals of the Nacirema. This writing exercise spurs a discussion on cultural awareness, assumptions, and worldviews.


Lesson 38: Metaphors for the Future

Students use metaphors describing different degrees of control we have over our future to explore how worldviews and mental models influence and shape our actions.


Lesson 39: Deep Space 3000

Use this collaborative activity to help students envision and create a sustainable environment through the design of a “closed-system” spaceship that will be in outer space for 3,000 years, and then bring healthy and happy future generations back to Earth.


Lesson 40: Creating Our Future

How do we create a just and humane world for ourselves and for future generations? Help students identify and plan what they want their future to look like. Using an action-planning model, students visualize their desired future, identify objectives, develop a plan to address local and global issues, and implement their vision through action and service learning.

Resource Details

Why Use Engaging Students Through Global Issues?

Engaging Students through Global Issues includes 40 inspiring lesson plans to help students understand complex global issues and sustainable solutions, and offers creative tools for them to take action in their local and global community. The book can be used as a core teaching component for a semester or year-long course, as a short unit on global issues, or as an engaging contextual framework within which core subjects are taught. Lessons are designed for a range of student levels, from advanced elementary to middle and high school classes. Many lessons are also appropriate for undergraduate college courses. 

These interactive and engaging lessons address a range of learning styles and student populations and include both collaborative and individual activities.

Each lesson plan includes everything you need from start to finish including materials, timing, step-by-step instructions, assessment for both intermediate and advanced students, action project ideas, resources for further information, and reproducible handouts. Lessons also include extension activities to explore issues further and to make writing, technology, math, and art connections.


How to use Engaging Students Through Global Issues

Engaging Students Through Global Issues can be used within a semester or year-long course or a short unit on global issues. Engaging Students Through Global Issues is often compatible with existing curriculum requirements and topics and extends students’ learning through an interdisciplinary approach to issues.

Use this book for a short unit in:
  • Life Science
  • Physical Science
  • U.S. History
  • World History
  • Economics
  • Business/Finance
  • Math
  • Language Arts
  • Health/Nutrition

Use this book as a core teaching component for:
  • Global Studies
  • Environmental Education
  • World Issues
  • Global Sustainability
  • Geography
  • Contemporary World Problems
  • Civics and Civic Engagement
  • Service Learning
  • ESL Social Studies/Science

Use activities in this book as an engaging framework to teach core subjects and skills in:
  • Social Studies
  • Science
  • Reading and writing comprehension
  • Math applications
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Student collaboration

State Standards

Curriculum Funding Toolkit

Use this toolkit to help find funds to purchase Facing the Future curriculum for your classroom. The funding opportunities listed below have been screened by Facing the Future staff to ensure that they are easy to apply to and that funds from these sources can be used to purchase our curriculum.

Learn more about:

Do you know of other funding opportunities that would enable educators to purchase Facing the Future curriculum? Contact us to help spread the word.



Current Funding Opportunities


Eligibility: Teachers, Schools, Districts

Amount: Varies  |  Deadline:  Open

Adopt-A-Classroom partners donors with teachers so you can have funds to purchase critical resources and materials for your classroom. By registering, your classroom will be posted on the Adopt-A-Classroom website available for donors to select. When adopted, you will have full discretion to purchase items that meet your unique classroom needs. FAQs

Learn more about and apply for funding from Adopt-A-Classroom


Eligibility: K–12 public schools

Amount: Varies  Deadline: Open

Teachers can post a project or curriculum they would like to fund. Donors can make an online donation for any amount toward the cost of the project or curriculum. When the item is fully funded, DonorsChoose purchases the item and sends it and a thank you kit to the teacher.

Learn more about and apply for funding from Donors Choose

The Lawrence Foundation

Eligibility: U.S.-based IRS 501(c)(3) qualified charitable or public schools and libraries

Amount: Varies  Deadline: April 30 and October 31

The foundation is focused on making grants to support education, health, human services, and other causes, with the opportunity to support other diverse areas on an occasional basis.

Learn more about and apply for funding from The Lawerence Foundation

Learn and Serve America

Eligibility: Local Educational Agencies, public or private schools, nonprofits, and higher education institutions

Amount: Varies by state  |  Deadline: Varies by state

Do you have an idea for a service-learning project that will impact your community? Learn and Serve America provides grant support annually (primarily through intermediaries) to diverse partnerships to develop and sustain service-learning projects. Generally, grants are for a period of three years, renewable annually contingent upon performance and the availability of funds.

Note: Funds are allocated to each State by a formula that considers each State’s school-age population and Title I allotment. Grants are awarded on a non-competitive basis to States through State Education Agencies (SEAs) that then provide sub-grants to Local Educational Agencies, public or private schools, nonprofits, and higher education institutions that implement programs.

Examples of State Learn and Serve Programs: FL, NY, TX, IL,CA, WA

Parent Teacher Association (PTA)

As the largest volunteer child advocacy association in the nation, Parent Teacher Association (PTA) reminds our country of its obligations to children and provides parents and families with a powerful voice to speak on behalf of every child while providing the best tools for parents to help their children be successful students.

Learn more about and apply for funding from the PTA

Student Achievement Grants - NEA Foundation

Eligibility: Applicants must be practicing U.S public school teachers in grades PreK–12, public school education support professionals, or faculty and staff at public higher education institutions

Amount: $5,000   |  Deadline: Open

The NEA Foundation Student Achievement Grants aim to improve the academic achievement of students in U.S. public schools and public higher education institutions in any subject area(s). The proposed work should engage students in critical thinking and problem solving that deepen their knowledge of standards-based subject matter. The work should also improve students’ habits of inquiry, self-directed learning, and critical reflection.

Learn more about and apply for funding from the NEA Foundation

Verizon Foundation

Eligibility: Schools and 501(c)3 organizations

Amount: Grants average between $5,000 and $10,000  |   Deadline: January 1 and October 31

The Verizon Foundation seeks to improve literacy, knowledge, and readiness for the twenty-first century. Its four core areas are education, literacy, Internet safety, and domestic violence.  Eligible organizations seeking grants from the Verizon Foundation must be prepared to track and report program outcomes and specific results that demonstrate measurable human impact. In the grant application, organizations must indicate what outcomes are targeted through programming and what results, as specified on the grant application, the organization will measure.

Learn more about and apply for funding from the Verison Foundation


About Federal Funding

Federal funds tend to be large grant awards and most often are open to schools, districts, or state governments. Individual teachers are not typically awarded small grants through Federal Grant Programs. You can search all federal funding opportunities at or Department of Education funding opportunities at their Discretionary Grant Application Packages page.

Information About Programs

Use the Guide to Education Programs to learn about federally funded programs. Below are direct links to specific programs for which funding opportunities may arise or may be available through your state:


Grants Forecasting
The grants forecast can help you identify grant competitions within some of these programs that may open soon.


Tips and Resources



Don’t let a lack of funds keep you from using our curriculum resources. If you teach at a Title I school or have a high percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch, please contact us.

Classroom Examples 

The classroom examples below show how Engaging Students Through Global Issues can be used to address a variety of classroom challenges and increase student involvement.

Darrellene Canada
  • School: Lakes High School, Lakewood, WA
  • Grade: 12     Classroom Size: 30
  • Subject: Contemporary World Problems

Courtenay Chadwell-Gatz
  • School: Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA
  • Grade: Undergraduate     Classroom Size: 15
  • Subject: Academic ESL composition (ESLA 97)

Liza Esser
  • School: Capitol Hill Day School, Washington, D.C.
  • Grades: 6-8     Classroom Size: 12
  • Subject: Environmental Science

Wendy Ewbank
  • School: Seattle Girls School, Seattle, WA
  • Grade: 7     Classroom Size: ~18
  • Subject: Social Studies and Science

Jessica Levine, photo courtesy of Suzie Fitzhugh
Jessica Levine
  • School: Eckstein Middle School, Seattle, WA
  • Grades: 6-8     Classroom Size: 24-31
  • Subject: Science

Joanna Forge't
  • School: Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School, South Easton, MA
  • Grades: 9-12     Classroom Size: ~15
  • Subject: Environmental Science and Studies

Paula Fraser, photo courtesy of Chad Coleman, Bellevue Reporter newspaper
Paula Fraser
  • School: Stevenson Elementary (Prism Program), Bellevue, WA
  • Grade: 5th Grade Highly Capable Students     Classroom Size: 28
  • Subject: Social Studies and Environmental Science

David White-Espin
  • School: Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center, Seattle, WA
  • Grade: Level 2 - ages 11 to 21, based on students' speaking ability
  • Classroom Size: ~20
  • Subject: Literacy and Reading

Lindsay Verwys
  • School: Concord Academy, Boyne City, MI
  • Grades: 7-12     Classroom Size: 15
  • Subject: Global/International Studies, Social Studies

Alana Vinther
  • School: Global Connections High School, Burien, WA
  • Grades: 9-12     Classroom Size: ~21
  • Subject: Marketing

© Tania Westby
Noah Zeichner
  • School: Chief Sealth High School, Seattle, WA
  • Grades: 10-12     Classroom Size: 25-30
  • Subject: Global Leadership, U.S. History, Theory of Knowledge

Educator Quotes

 Very engaging, thoughtfully created, intellectually stimulating, and a true favorite of my students. 

- Social Studies Teachers, Owings Mills, MD

Professional Development

Facing the Future offers the following workshops to help you learn more about Engaging Students Through Global Issues: Activity-Based Lessons and Action Projects:


Bridging the Achievement Gap through Global Education
Improve achievement for ALL students, regardless of class, race, or ethnicity, by equipping yourself with well-tested strategies that help students become active participants in their learning, make meaningful connections between academic abstractions and socio-cultural realities, and improve their critical thinking skills. Join us in taking a fresh look at closing the achievement gap with global issues curriculum that is relevant, cognitively rich, and standards-based.

Building Bridges over Troubled Water: Cross-curricular Resources and Action Opportunities for Teaching about Water
Make a splash in your classroom! This workshop introduces local and global water issues. Using graphs, trends, and fact sheets we explore connections between water and other global issues such as population, poverty, consumption, conflict, and the environment. Participants will engage in hands-on activities to bring water alive in the classroom. Lessons include an investigation of everyday items and their water inputs, a water walk, and information about water quality and conservation. 

Connecting Your Classroom to the World through Service Learning
Spark interest, participation and performance in the classroom by inspiring your students to take constructive action in the world! Through meaningful work that meets real societal needs, service learning teaches students key academic and interpersonal skills. We'll review the latest research on the benefits of service learning, and provide examples of how teachers have integrated service learning into various subjects to address global issues in their local and global communities. The session includes activity-based lessons connecting students to global issues and action projects that develop their critical thinking, imagination, and initiative. 

Global Sustainability: An Integrated Context for Learning
Global sustainability is emerging as a major goal of education, affirmed in the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). Discover hands-on activities to integrate global sustainability as an effective framework for teaching core subjects and skills such as critical thinking, information literacy, writing, speaking, and listening. We'll share examples of how schools, teachers, and students are leading the way toward a globally sustainable future; examine different models for curriculum integration; and work through a template to create your own unit.

Hands-on Lessons on Global Equity and Quality of Life
How can we help our students see the connections between scarcity, prosperity, and equity in the world – and understand their own role in fostering quality of life and well-being from the local to the global level? We'll look at basic graphs and walk through activities that allow students to experience the effects of inequity and examine the effectiveness of traditional economic indicators like GDP. Students have an opportunity to develop their own criteria for measuring classroom, community, and global well-being – in ways that account for the environment, people, AND economics!  

Ideas and Resources for Implementing Effective Social Studies CBAs
This workshop is designed to help teachers in Washington state to introduce and implement the Social Studies Classroom-Based Assessments in engaging ways. Facing the Future's activity-based lessons and simulations provide relevant content and promote student interest and skills in critical thinking, taking positions, persuasive writing, discussion, and problem-solving. Participants will walk through a framework of classroom activities, strategies, and resources for the Humans and the Environment CBA (for high school and middle school geography). We will also make connections to other CBAs, including those in civics.

Seeing the Big Picture: Media Literacy and Global Issues
What are the economic, political, and social forces that drive the dramatic events we see reported in the news? How does advertising influence quality of life? This workshop examines common assumptions about the world and the role of individuals in it. We'll present engaging hands-on activities that help students understand the systems, relationships, and worldviews that shape global trends – and transition from information to vision and action. 

Teaching about Governance, Policy-Making, and Global Issues
This session presents dynamic lessons to teach about governance and global issues. Through simulations students experience the process of finding common interests, forming coalitions and lobbying, as well as the choices policy-makers face in balancing short- and long-term costs and benefits. Skills targeted include critical thinking, media literacy, oral and written communication, collaboration, problem-solving and creative initiative. 

Using Systems Thinking to Educate Effective Global Citizens
How can we prepare our students to approach the world in a way that does not overwhelm them with the complex challenges we face, but rather empowers them with knowledge, skills, and attitudes to create a more peaceful and sustainable planet? We'll explore how concepts such as systems thinking and worldview can expand our consciousness and stimulate positive change on important global issues.

What's Ailing Us? Exploring Global Health Connections
From fast food to malaria, health challenges affect us locally and globally. Join us for a dynamic exploration of the interdependencies between health and other global issues. Discover activity-based lessons that engage students to think critically and constructively about how to improve the health of our planet through personal action and structural change. 

Additional Professional Development Opportunities


To learn more about our upcoming workshops, webinars, and conferences, please visit our Workshop Calendar. If you are interested in having Facing the Future present at your next event, please contact us.

Supplementary Materials

To complement Engaging Students Through Global Issues: Activity Based Lessons and Action Projects, this section contains background information and additional resources to help educators and students learn more about global issues and sustainability.

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We equip and motivate students to develop critical thinking skills, build global awareness, and engage in positive solutions for a sustainable future through hands-on curricula and professional learning.

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