Principles of the work on topics linking ESD and IBSE



Principles of the work on topics linking ESD and IBSE

What does ESD need to be reinforced/ deepened that can be provided by IBSE?


  1. ESD strongly benefits from scientific understanding

ESD is tackling issues that have been identified mostly (if not only) on the basis of an environment/ nature-oriented issue (climate change, biodiversity, water…), and thus to situations and phenomena that are the usual inquiry field of scientific process towards knowledge.

Thus, the opening of IBSE to the real, empirical world, as well as its emphasis on experimentation, problem-solving and critical thinking, makes it a particularly well suited approach to address sustainable development issues at school.

Developing practical experience, critical thinking, predicting from data, team working and dialogical skills, evaluating and verifying a problem: all these skills and attitudes are required for children to develop their capacity to imagine future collective scenarios for sustainable development.

Special contribution of IBSE to ESD on this point:

The aim is to provide evidence in a context that is relevant to the children enabling them to critically engage with an issue in ESD. Now, a strong theme within IBSE is the interpretation and use of data as evidence within problem solving (with personal connection to data, making decisions about what data is needed to address a problem, learning data-handling skills in practical contexts that can later be applied more generally).

This specificity of the work with data could be applied not only to the better understanding of natural phenomena but also economic and social ones; data collection and analysis (and also experimentation, critical thinking, etc.) can be targeted at a multi dimension problem-solving process. This would avoid the risk of considering on the one hand the environmental part of a sustainable development issue on a scientific point of view and on the other hand leave out from the scientific/ empirical approach the economic and social aspects.


  1. ESD supposes a cross-disciplinary approach

Given the multi-dimensional aspect of sustainable development, we consider that a “cross-cutting topic approach” is best adapted to tackle this diversity of issues and contents, as it allows working on different questions and experimenting with various approaches at the same time and in different countries.

ESD, to be successful, must avoid the pitfall of school subjects compartmentalisation and go beyond the usual teaching of notions and concepts (intellectual approach), or the development of appropriate behaviours (learning by example, good practices, Eco citizen gestures) it has so far mostly consisted in, to propose innovative ways to teach.

Special contribution of IBSE to ESD on this point:

IBSE can develop the ability to manage complexity in a scientific way (for teachers and children both). IBSE involves identifying the possible variables within a situation in order to explore the effects of each in a systematic way. For example, children exploring what affects the germination and growth of seeds may set up separate experiments to test the effects of water, warmth, light etc., but need to recognise that a balance of these different variables is needed for optimum growth. These kinds of experiences develop the thinking skills needed to analyse complex situations.

Moreover, some partners involved in SUSTAIN have already developed cross-disciplinary approaches linking sciences to other disciplines.


  1. ESD seeks the active involvement of all stakeholders (school leaders, teachers, pupils, the school board, administrative and supportive staff, parents, scientists, NGOs, the local community and business) in the actions conducted at school

Sustainable development is both a societal and an educational challenge. Addressing hot issues, ESD could involve a wide range of players, especially from outside the school itself: scientists, environmentalists, economists, legal experts, local stakeholders, policy-makers, industries.

A school that is connected to such an open environment is a privileged space for developing and applying/ implementing ESD. Indeed school can be the place for the articulation of all these stakeholders and at the same time –thanks to its special position in the society and its role of building collective citizenship- pay attention to a view of general interest and not of groups’ interests.

Special contribution of IBSE to ESD on this point:

Through a well-functioning community approach, with strong links with industry, scientists and local stakeholders, the IBSE approach can contribute to an ESD project which has high quality science content and which is well-rooted in the close environment of the children and thus to what they know. This is an important element in grounding the motivation of the children.

  1. ESD must be oriented towards action

ESD may take different perspectives which may give different conclusions. This can be confusing when dealing with the necessity of taking concrete action. Moreover, there is a risk that ESD mainly focuses on encouraging behavioural change (telling people what they should do) rather than also developing the critical skills to engage in discussion of policy and decision making.


Special contribution of IBSE to ESD on this point:

The heart of IBSE is drawing conclusions based on evidence children can collect themselves (as well as from other sources).Developing the first-hand personal experience of children into knowledge and understanding through questioning and inquiry and the consideration of evidence, can contribute to taking good decisions and changing behaviours. This as a progressive process made of little steps in the right direction rather than an immediate capacity to produce fully effective answers.

Project partners