At-home and at school learning resources from Learning for a Sustainable Future
Fall Week 15: Sustainable Cities and Communities
This week's LIO is all about UN SDG #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. In a world of increasing urbanization and carbon emissions, this SDG focuses on creating cities and communities that are safe, sustainable, resilient, and inclusive for all. Rapid urbanization has caused urban cities to account for 75% of global carbon emissions and anywhere from 60-80% of our world's energy consumption - even through cities occupy just 3% of Earth's land! Only half of the world's urban population has access to convenient public transportation. Over 90% of COVID-19 cases are in urban areas. By 2050, 70% of the world's population is predicted to live in urban settlements!

As we look towards building a more sustainable and resilient future for our planet, it is now more important than ever to reimagine how we build and manage our urban spaces! This includes thinking about important topics like investing in affordable housing, public transportation, green spaces, and many more areas of public policy that can lead us to a more inclusive, fair, and resilient planet! The activities below introduce students to the idea of sustainable communities and explore some of the issues that need to be taken into consideration when planning, building, and managing our urban environments.
Grades K-4
This picture book introduces students to the concept of sustainable communities. Based on actual events, the young narrator leads students on a tour of Greensburg, Kansas, before and after a devastating tornado. As a new town emerges from the rubble, there is a clear message that sustainability begins at home, and we can all make small changes that ensure a better future for our planet.

  • Read Green City or watch online how one community survived a tornado and rebuilt for a sustainable future
  • This book is a combination of two genres. Have students make a Venn diagram comparing the narrative texts and non-fiction of this story
  • Have students design a survey based on the "Tips for Going Green" at the end of the book. Draw graphs to show your findings 
  • Watch Take Action on Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities to see how kids all over the world are making a difference
  • Have students think of ways to make their school greener, as the townspeople did in Greensburg. Draw a picture or make a model of your new school or create a 2D plan or 3D plan of your town or city
  • Based on what you read, what do you think your city or town can do to become greener? Write a class letter to the mayor or an email suggesting environmental improvement ideas for specific parts of your town or city
  • Try this Hands-on Activity Plan a Green City with the students
  • Use this book as a springboard for inquiry-based learning. Ask students to explore an aspect of green construction of interest. Provide access to books focusing on specific practices such as alternative energy sources to jumpstart their investigations
What did you think of Green City?
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This resource uses the Global Goals as a catalyst for students in identifying a local community issue that they want to help solve and create a community action plan to get started. 

What did you think of Turning Learning into Action?
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This hands-on activity gets students thinking about the social issues that affect their communities. Students will learn to identify the problems that affect their community by walking around the neighbourhood and then mapping it out. They will create a plan to take action and give back to the community.

  • Have students discuss if there are any issues such as homelessness, poverty or pollution in their community before taking them out for a community walk
  • During the community walk, have students take notes or photos of things they notice that might sign a problem or issue in the community
  • To help students better understand what they observed on their walk, ask them to draw a community map. Explain that while most maps detail roads, transit routes, highways and waterways, the community map will tell the story of what life is like for people living and working in the community
  • Try Google Mapping your area. Mapping is an excellent way of demonstrating your findings and tracking any changes you can bring about
  • Create a plan to take action and give back to their community
  • Learn how a more sustainable neighbourhood can improve your happiness. Access the lesson plan and worksheets for students
What did you think of Your Guide to Taking Action with Community Mapping?
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This video showcases how the planning profession is at the forefront of developing policy, capacity, and climate resilience within communities and environments across the country. It also discusses how climate change affects different parts of the country and how planners are discovering new ways to adapt to these changes.

  • Students go for a walk in their local area to identify important economic, social and environmental aspects in their community. They look for and photograph features that they like and do not like and justify their choice. Students can use what they learn through this process to identify the problems they most want to solve and design the solutions that will have the most significant impact
  • Have students create a map to display their local area's significant features, as identified on their walk. Brainstorm and sketch ideas for new or redesigned public spaces for specific locations in the community
  • Create to-scale models of the designs and develop proposals that could be presented to the city council, such as a new bus shelter 
  • In this Sustainable Cities lesson plan, students will describe their vision of a sustainable city, identify the challenges facing cities, and discover the ecosystem services provided by nature
  • This student-driven inquiry activity entitled Location Matters has students discover how transportation is a significant factor in helping people in cities decide where they will live
  • Get outside and try the Global Goals Impact Games for SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
What did you think of Planning for Climate Resilience?
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About Learning Inside Out

Above you will find a selection of activities, broken down by various grade levels. These guides will be released weekly and archived on our Learning Inside Out page, so you can always access the full catalogue.

All activities have been modified from resources on our R4R database, simplified and adapted for both outdoor learning in the school yard or at-home as needed. The activity descriptions above should contain all the information and links that you need!

If you'd like to view the full original resource on R4R, including curriculum connections for every province/territory, click the activity title.

We want this guide to work for you, so your feedback is invaluable to us.
Use the feedback button at the bottom of this Guide, or email us at We would also love to see photos of students engaging in the activities, please e-mail us any pictures or videos you have!
Let us know how this helped your learning and teaching from home or at school indoors and (hopefully) outdoors and what you'd like to see more of by filling out our brief feedback form!
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Learning for a Sustainable Future (LSF) is a Canadian charity with over 25 years of experience working within the education system. Our Resources for Rethinking (R4R) database is an award-winning collection of resources that are peer-reviewed by certified teachers and connected to curriculum in all provinces and territories. R4R is recommended on many Ministry of Education websites.
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