Dr. Leighangela Brady, Superintendent, National School District

Dr. Brady is the Superintendent of National School District. Her district is focused on contributing to the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by engaging students to build a more sustainable future. Using the Twitter hashtag #NSDnow, NSD is sharing their story around developing exceptionally prepared learners, innovative and compassionate world citizens. Dr. Leighangela Brady is well known for engaging and motivating others to shift practice to meet the needs of today’s students while preparing them for a better tomorrow. Leighangela is an author of two books, Transforming Ice Age Schools and Test Less, Assess More.


As stewards of the future, schools play a pivotal role in shaping the minds of tomorrow’s leaders and problem-solvers. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a framework for addressing pressing global challenges, ranging from reducing poverty to environmental conservation. By integrating these goals into teaching and learning, schools not only educate students but also foster a sense of responsibility and empowerment to make a positive impact on their communities and the world.

For sustainable development to be achieved, three core elements need to be addressed; economic growth, social well-being, and environmental protection. The SDGs encompass interconnected objectives that address global priorities such as poverty, hunger, health, education, equality, and environmental sustainability. These elements directly impact individuals and societies. Economic growth ensures prosperity and opportunities for advancement, while social well-being promotes equality and justice so that no one is left behind. Environmental protection safeguards our planet’s resources and ecosystems for future generations.

Engaging Students in Action and Advocacy

Schools not only impart knowledge, but also cultivate essential skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and leadership. Empowering students to raise their voices and act is essential in driving meaningful change. Schools can provide platforms for students to engage in projects that align with the SDGs, whether it’s organizing community clean-up events, advocating for policy changes, or collaborating with local businesses and organizations. With a culture of civic engagement, schools nurture future leaders who are committed to making a difference in their schools, communities, and the world.

Teaching students about the SDGs not only raises awareness but also cultivates a sense of belonging through global citizenship and responsibility. It provides students with a framework for understanding the interconnectedness of social, economic, and environmental challenges, and inspires them to take action to create positive change. Through education, schools can serve as catalysts for building a more sustainable and equitable future, where every individual can thrive while still respecting the planet’s finite resources. SDG education empowers students to become change agents who inspire others to act and create a ripple effect that extends far beyond the school walls.

Getting Started

Each SDG provides a unique opportunity for educators to make interdisciplinary connections, engage students in research skills, and initiate problem-based learning. By aligning with specific goals, schools can tailor their efforts to address the most pressing problems facing their own neighborhoods. As school leaders, it is imperative to take proactive steps in integrating the SDGs into the educational framework.

Here are some practical examples of how schools can align with specific goals:

  1. Collaborate with principals to select a goal that resonates with the school’s community: After consulting with the principal, a school in a suburban area might identify SDG #7- Affordable and Clean Energy as a priority goal. Recognizing the community’s interest in renewable energy, the school could decide to focus on ways to reduce energy usage within the campus or write letters to the local school board advocating to explore solar energy options.
  2. Implement initiatives tailored to a specific goal: Building on SDG #2- Zero Hunger, a school in a rural area could establish a school garden or farm project. Students could be involved in planting and cultivating vegetables, which are then used in the school cafeteria to promote healthy eating habits and address food insecurity in their community.
  3. Forge partnerships with local businesses and organizations: A school located in an urban area might partner with local businesses, such as a grocery store or restaurant, to reduce food waste in alignment with SDG #12- Responsible Consumption and Production. Together, they could implement a food recovery program where surplus food from these establishments is redistributed to those in need.
  4. Provide students with opportunities to engage in hands-on learning experiences that promote sustainability and social responsibility: In support of SDG #6- Clean Water and Sanitation, a school situated near a river might organize a water quality monitoring project. Students could collect water samples, conduct tests, and analyze the data to assess the health of the local water source. This hands-on experience would not only educate students about water conservation but also encourage them to take proactive measures to protect the environment.
  5. Encourage interdisciplinary approaches that connect SDGs to various subject areas and real-world challenges: To address SDG #4- Quality Education, a school might integrate sustainability themes across different subject areas. In science class, students might study the impact of climate change on ecosystems, while in social studies, they might explore the role of government policies in promoting environmental conservation. Through these interdisciplinary approaches, students would gain a more comprehensive understanding of sustainability and its interconnectedness with other disciplines.
  6. Empower students to become advocates for change by promoting leadership opportunities and community engagement: Inspired by SDG #16- Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, a school might establish a student-led club to promote kindness. Through workshops and community outreach events, students would learn about conflict resolution strategies and advocate for social justice both within the school and the broader community. This initiative not only builds leadership skills but also a culture of compassion and inclusivity among students.

Schools as Agents of Change

Schools are well positioned to champion the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and nurture students to be catalysts for positive change. Through the integration of these goals, schools can cultivate a culture of sustainability, equity, and global citizenship. As educators, we have a responsibility to equip students with the knowledge, skills, and values needed to navigate an increasingly complex world; and to actively contribute to shaping a more just, prosperous, and sustainable future.

Through interdisciplinary learning and community engagement, schools become hubs for holistic development and preparing students to address the complex challenges of the 21st century. The importance of the SDGs extends beyond addressing global challenges; they hold the power to ignite grassroots action and inspire individuals to make meaningful contributions towards a more sustainable and equitable world.

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