Measuring Material Footprints

We have 10 years until the deadline for meeting targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of universal goals that address the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world. The debate is already out as to whether we have achieved any of these targets or not.

“The SDGs are unique in that they cover issues that affect us all. They reaffirm our international commitment to end poverty, permanently, everywhere. They are ambitious in making sure no one is left behind. More importantly, they involve us all to build a more sustainable, safer, more prosperous planet for all humanity.”

United Nations Development Programme

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All 193 member countries of the United Nations signed and agreed to take action towards these goals, including Canada, USA, UK and Australia. Therefore, we have permission from the leaders of our countries to take action towards these goals in our classrooms. It is our duty to educate our students on these global issues.

But how might we tackle such huge topics with the youngest children in our schools?

Kristi Meeuwse and I designed a series of a lessons around plants, animals and people which might help teach towards some of these global goals. This is the second blog post of this series which will explore lesson ideas which can support the teaching of Goal 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production.

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It is predicted that by 2050 we will be need the equivalent of three planets to sustain our current lifestyles. Therefore Goal 12 sets targets to sustainably manage our natural resources and use them efficiently. Air, soil, food and water conditions are all monitored in this goal. Recycling paper, plastic and aluminium is fundamental to improving consumption and production targets.

There are 3 books in the ‘Young Children Can Create… a better planet’ series and each book contains activities to use drawing, photography, video and music. These creative mediums help young children to capture their world and make decisions about their environment or learn about other habitats.

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Here are some examples of activities to help young children engage with Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.


Book 1: Plants

Use video to teach what plants need from the Earth.

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Using Clips, young children can document learning over time as the conditions of sun, water and soil quality are tested. This progresses understanding of what good quality conditions are and why they are important for plants.


Book 2: Animals

Take your cameras on a photo walk around your school and capture the different materials that are used in the building.

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Cotton cushion cover & Coconut door mat.

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Tiled photo frame and nylon rosette award.

Next go toSketches School and draw a habitat background.

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Insert the background into Keynote and use the animal shapes from this habitat. Fill the animal shapes with the photos you’ve taken to reflect on where these resources come from and how resource consumption links us on a global scale.

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How might animals and habitats suffer from our unsustainable use of natural materials?


Book 3: People

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Use Sketches School to map the objects and materials used in your classroom after your photo walk. What global links are there between the objects we have and the places they were sourced from? What are we using materials for and how do we know they are from sustainable sources?

Used Numbers to create a pictogram of the amount of wood, plastic and paper resources we use on a daily basis? What impact do we have as people on our environment? Can we cut any back?

Take a photo walk to evidence the impact people have on our local environment. How much waste is there and what could be recycled?


There are plenty more ideas to use photography, drawing, video and music tools to help teach about the Responsible Consumption and Production goal with your young learners. All of the work that children complete in these lessons can be saved and organised in a Learning Journal:

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The download link for the Learning Journal is available in the books and instructions on how to use the journal, and all of the apps included in this post, are included in the books too. Download the books below:

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Book 1: Plants                               Book 2: Animals                        Book 3: People 

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