Cover of Sustainable Economics

A unit for grades 4–8 looking at the decisions consumers and producers make through the triple lenses of the environment, the economy, and equity.

How do our decisions affect humans, the environment, and the economy? 

Sustainable Economics is an integrated, project-based unit of study initially designed and piloted in a fourth/fifth grade classroom at the Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes Elementary School. Economics becomes a living concept for students as they research decision making, their own impact on their community, and economic forces at play in their lives. Building deep understanding of social, economic, and environmental impacts of every day decisions, students work with local businesses and community members to research and develop a business model with positive impact on their community while reaching their financial goals.

This unit was designed using the lens of sustainability– that is, looking at the decisions consumers and producers make through the triples lens of the environment, the economy, and from an equity perspective. The first half of the unit focuses on our decisions as consumers. Students are introduced to the variety of factors that can be considered, including source, process, quality, and price, and delve further into the considerations of each of these factors. Students participate in lessons that explore the impacts of these factors on the environment, economy, and people. In the second phase of the unit, students switch gears and become producers as they applying their learning from phase one. Students brainstorm a product, conduct market research, develop a business plan, and then carry their plan into production.

Developed in collaboration by Aziza Malik of Champlain Elementary School, Kellie Smith of the Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes, both in Burlington, VT, and Emily Hoyler and Sarah Kadden of Shelburne Farms’ Sustainable Schools Project.

Please note: This resource will be updated in 2024.

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