GLOBAL ECOVILLAGE PROJECT                      Lesson Plan   page 1

Creating a Sustainable Community


If we want the future to be sustainable … if we want the earth to be a beautiful and fair place to live now and in the future…then we must plan creatively and lovingly.


We have studied how nature is a balanced web of life and how humans have interfered with that healthy balance. We have also explored many alternative ways to “live lightly” and ecologically on this planet.


YOUR ASSIGNMENT:  Your creative challenge, is to make a map, drawing or model of a Sustainable Community. It will be a VISION, a dream of how the world could be.


      “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can                    

      change the world.  In fact that has always been how changes have been made.

Margaret Mead, anthropologist


SECTIONS:  (page 2) Each Section is worth 10 points.  There are 5 Required Sections: TRANSPORTATION, ENERGY, FOOD, WASTE TO RESOURCE, and HOUSING.

To get an A- (90 points) you will also include 4 more Optional Sections.  Remember, in order to have credit for a section, you will include 5 examples of things in that category.



For an A-   (90 points or 90%)    include 9 sections plus a key and story.

For a   B-   (80 points or 80%)    include 8 sections plus a key and story.

For a   C-   (70 points or 70%)    include 7 sections plus a key and story.


KEY: (page 3) Your key will be like an outline. It will list the sections and all examples you have included in your Global Ecovillage.


  • Bicycles
  • Busses (assisted by pedal power?)
  • Paddle boats
  • Walking
  • Electric scooter

Put the numbers for the examples next to the corresponding object on your Global Ecovillage model.  Numbers do not need to be in order.


STORY: Write a brief story 150-200 words about your community as if it were a newspaper article, TV news story, or advertisement.  To receive credit for your story:

  • Give the community a name
  • Tell about its main goals
  • Describe its special or unique qualities

4)    Be neatly hand written, or typed.




DESIGN & EVALUATION    Global Ecovillage – Lesson Plan/Evaluation      page 2


Remember, the goal of your village is to produce its own energy, deal with its own wastes and turn them into resources, grown its own food, and not pollute.  It is a community or town that is a wonderful place to live: safe, friendly, and interesting.



REQUIRED SECTIONS —     These first 5 Sections are required:


___ 5 forms of alternative transportation

___ 5 different renewable energies

___ 5 aspects of local, organic food production and distribution

___ 5 ways to turn wastes to resources

___ 5 different types of housing options.

(Consider having a CoHousing Community which includes these 5 concepts: individual houses or condos grouped together, open land preserved for gardens & recreation, some sharing of resources, a community building with optional meals, residents design and run the community. See


OPTIONAL SECTIONS —    Choose from any of the following Sections:


___ 5 ways that Nature & Recreation are included

___ 5 Businesses or stores that are ecological/ sustainable

___ 5 Energy Saving aspects of a building or house.

___ 5 Road & paths that are safe, beautiful, convenient

___ 5 ways the village is set up to encourage “community”.

___ 5 special ways that health and education and life-long learning are included

___ 5 ways to save water and keeping it clean

___ 5 ecological jobs for young people

___ 5 Community Guidelines about growth limits and population

___ 5 ideas of your own

___ 5 more ideas of your own!


GRADING:                                                                     Points and Teacher Comments:

9 sections + key and story =  A- (90%)

8 sections + key and story =  B- (90%)

7 sections + key and story =  C- (90%)



If you do more than 9 sections, you will receive

2 extra points for each additional section

(10 sections = 92%, 11 sections = 94%, etc.)

You will receive 5 extra percentage points if your

ART WORK is outstanding (91% + 5% =96%)

Total points:

KEY          Global Ecovillage Project                       Lesson Plan/Evaluation          page 3



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V  HOUSING OPTIONS or COHOUSING    VI  ____________________________

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VII  ___________________________            VIII ____________________________

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IX ____________________________               X  ______________________________

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XI  ____________________________               XII  ___________________________

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This article is from the Michigan Social Studies Journal   

Volume 14, Number 1, Spring 2004.    It is available at:












“The future is the world’s biggest art project

that we are all co-creating together,

whether we know it or not.”


“How can we, as humans, live a high quality life,

now and into the future, without depleting the environment?”



To address this question in the classroom, students created models of sustainable communities.  Refined over time, this project is an effective way to explore the interaction of many sustainability issues.  My students really enjoyed coming to class and working together in small groups, imagining and creating. The Global Ecovillage Project is able to integrate essentially all the Social Studies Standards because it is creating a whole, complex system of interactions between humans and their environment. It is able to include the social, economic and ecological elements of culture.



Creating an EcoVillage:   Step by Step


To begin the project, I engage the students in “mapping” the “Issues of the Future”. In this brainstorming session the students share their responses to the question “What do you think will be the most important issues in the future of our world?”, while I record the issues on the board.  They come up with issues such as ecology, population, crime, economy, war/peace, education and politics.   I scatter these issues on the board, drawing a circle around each. Students seem aware of many important issues but they are not as aware as the connections between the issues.  I ask them to suggest possible connections between the issues. I record this on the board by drawing a line between the two issues and writing a brief description of the connection on the line.  We then continue to explore and record the many possible connections between all these issues (which is probably quite infinite, really). This mapping process helps students begin to explore the complex interconnections between humans, the environment & quality of life.


An additional introductory activity could include the use of The Ecological Footprint, a tool for measuring the ecological impact of daily life choices. The website could be useful at this time.  By answering a few questions, the online Footprint Calculator will give feedback as to the relative ecological impacts of the students’ current life.  This may serve as a reality check and further inspiration to create a more sustainable future.


The second step in the project includes sharing sustainability information and having students research some main components of a sustainable future. Some components may include healthy, non-polluting sources of energy, food and housing. Each student selects an area to focus on then is given time in class and at home to explore their issue. Once the students have had sufficient time to prepare, they present their findings orally to the class as a whole, thus building a base of common knowledge before proceeding to the creating an “Ecovillage” in which students will integrate the concepts.


The third step involves small teams of students creating a 3D model of a sustainable community.  Construction strategies and materials are described below. Some students may chose to do a drawing or writing instead, still using the same lesson plan criteria.  Note that the Global Ecovillage lesson plan is also an evaluation sheet, which I believe is one of the best parts of this project: it is “self-grading” based on points received. I take great effort to focus on the fun and quality of life that we can gain from more local and ecological living.


In the last step, after the projects are completed, each team makes a presentation to the class describing some of the special parts of their Ecovillage. I fill in the grading at that time, and the Key is attached to the model.  The projects can also be shared with township planning board or videotaped for various uses.



The success of this project is based on a number of factors:


Fun: Shaping an imaginary future, doing art, & working in teams are enjoyable

activities. Focusing on the positive – creating parks, recreation & natural spaces,  ways for young people to get around town – creates enthusiasm and interest.


Real World Application:  Students are motivated by exploring their possible future choices. This is a chance to imagine and practice designing the components of a positive future.


Higher Level Thinking Skills: Synthesis, Evaluation, Analysis


Group Process:  Small teams allow for rich interaction & collaborative decision-making.


               Teacher input: The team structure allows the teacher to go among the groups and interact with their thinking, while the remaining groups are busily creating. It is a great opportunity to  being able to respond to their creative ideas and add some more thoughts or questions into their process.



  • The grading process is very easy and clear for both students & teacher.
  • The requirements assure that students will include a complex variety of

sustainability components.

  • There is good balance between “required” and “optional” components.


               Standards. Because of the potential for modeling the rich interactions inherent in society and nature, this single project easily incorporates and integrates most of the Social Studies standards!


                 Sharing: The nature of a Model makes it easy for student to share with classmates, school or community.




How Can We Make Conscious Consumer Choices?


I found by pre-testing, that most of my 7th grade students did not know the energy sources for the heat and light in the classroom or their homes.  They therefore did not know about the impact of burning coal or the by-products of nuclear energy. If a person does not know the sources or consequences of their life styles and product choices, then how can they make informed decisions?

In our culture and in this time, we do not make things from our natural, local environment, as was done by our ancestors since the beginning of human history.  In the past people were very directly connected to their environment in all aspects of their lives.  However, we in the U. S. currently purchase all the things we need from a store.  These products come from around the world, and we seldom have any idea of their impact on the health and well-being of the workers that made the products – or the environmental costs of their production, packaging, shipping and eventual disposal.  (See the Ecological Footprint)

Since we are not directly involved in food production or making our own clothes or building our homes, or creating our own energy ~~ the connections between things become “invisible”.  Even we, as adults, find it an almost impossible task to identify the impacts of the products we purchase.  Food for instance is shipped an average of 1200 miles!  What is happening at the source and production points?  Are the fields being sprayed with chemicals that poison the workers?  Are their children getting cancer at highly accelerated rates?  Are the workers forced to buy expensive imported food because they do not own the land that is being used to grow luxury, non-nutritive food items (such as sugar, coffee) for the richer countries? Are the forests being clear cut to make farms or grazing land for cattle? How would we know?

In our current global economy, the social and ecological consequences of our life choices become difficult to track and understand.  The U. S is only about 5% of the worlds’ population, but uses about 25% of the world’s resources and produces about 25% of its pollution as well.  Our over-consumption of the planets’ resources is a social, ethical, economic and environmental issue.  Unaware consumption has been woven into our consciousness as “how life is”.  However, by gaining perspective and becoming more aware, we can gracefully transform destructive practices to life-enhancing practices !  One can easily see how local and organic food production, for instance, would take care of most of the above listed concerns.








Originally I covered cardboard (left-over Science Fair display boards) with green roll paper to look like grass. Students constructed land and water features, buildings and roads with the scrap materials I had gathered: little blocks of wood, pop cycle sticks, paper, etc. However, I have found that the village tended to be square and boxy looking, reflecting the manufactured materials I had given the students. Since I have begun to do natural building, I have applied the “clay/sand/straw mix” commonly used in constructing earthen walls, floors and plasters, to the Ecovillage Project.  Having students use this mix plus natural objects that could be found outdoors (small rocks, moss, grass, small branches) I found that the project designs were no longer linear and boxy, but more flowing and natural, like nature itself.   Currently we use scrap plywood as a base, and cover the surface with the earthen mix*.  With this mix it is easy to create a hill, a pond, or curving roads.  Small pine cones, bark, stones, etc. collected by the students provide natural landscaping for their model.

*The modeling mix needs enough clay to be sticky, enough sand to avoid cracking, and possibly some fiber, such as dried grass cut with scissors into short ½ – 1” pieces for tensile strength. The mix is predominately sand. Experiment with mixes and making small bricks and see if they become strong when dried. You could use premixed wet clay, or dry clay, which may be easier. The materials can be mixed and stored in plastic bags or containers. Traditionally, and most naturally, you can dig around to see what kind of subsoil you have available underneath the top soil. It may just be a clay/sand mix that will work, or need little amendment.













Working with colored paper may be most suited to your classroom…or even sketching, then coloring drawings of a village.  These strategies will work fine, however I would recommend a discussion with the students about the natural flowing shapes of nature, and the tendency for manufactured buildings, roads and objects to be straight and boxy.  Students could consider the mystery and interest of a curving road vs a straight one, and consider reflecting the natural landscaping of nature in the shape of our gardens, paths and buildings themselves.


A discussion of materials could prove interesting. Students may come up with their own ideas. Since I have been doing natural building, finding my own local materials, I find myself reflecting back on my days as an Art teacher, where I was almost entirely dependent on manufactured (and store-bought) supplies.  “Buying everything” is certainly a recent concept, possible only since the industrial revolution. I see the process of manufacturing and long-distance transportation as a key factor in our separation from and misuse of nature. We, as a culture, currently spend almost all of our time indoors, and because we are no longer directly involved in producing our own clothes, food, building, or energy, purchase almost everything from stores. We cannot see the social, economic, ecological and ethical implications of the food, clothes, products we buy. The consequences of our choices are removed, and for the most part invisible to us.  In addition, the marketplace does not provide adequate feedback on these consequences, because its goal is the selling of a product.  We often see nature as a scenic backdrop, rather than a matrix for our lives, or a place we spend much time, or have anything to do.


This is one of the reasons this project is so important. Since the Ecovillage produces its own food and energy, and deals with its own wastes, it makes our connections with the environment visible again. We are held locally responsible for our actions, our choices. It allows us to consider our real-life options: buy food which is shipped an average of 1200 miles which is sprayed with unknown poisons, or produce organic food locally. Clear cut the Rainforest, or do local sustainable harvesting of trees.  Local actions can be much more easily understood and monitored.


The Ecovillage Project also reconnects us with the joy of belonging to a place, appreciating and preserving its resources.  It helps us think about how we could integrate nature and our living spaces in a way that allows young people to flourish.


The Ecovillage Project reminds us of the abundance that we have within our bioregion ~~ and that Quality of Life may be made up of such things as a nearby park, choosing to commute less, and exchanging some of those travel hours for the arts, or time together with friends and family.  This project is a step in envisioning and moving toward more livable neighborhoods … and more connected & ecological lives, for ourselves and all generations to come.


“The Future is the world’s biggest art project

which we are all co-creating together

whether we realize it or not.”




All the Strands of Social Studies are engaged by the Ecovillage Project, because students are looking at the complex relationships between people and the environment.

The Quality of Life for “all children, all species, for all time”[1] depends on the caring and informed decisions that we make as individuals, communities, businesses and governments.  Note how this project generously incorporates all the Standards.

Below is some of the wording from the Social Studies Standards.

(Bracketed wording is mine.)

Strand I Historical Perspective (Time & Chronology 1.1, Comprehending the Past 1.2 )

Historical reasoning, combustion engine, travel, distribution of materials,

Pollution from energy use for production and transportation.

Strand II, Geographic Perspective. Consider the human/environment interaction, and the consequences of actions for both patterns and processes.  How our climatic, economic, political and cultural patterns weave together.  Assume citizenship responsibilities, and to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good.  Production and consumption of goods and services to make personal, career and societal decisions about the use of scarce resources.

Strand III Civic Perspective. How to use these skills to craft a sustainable future.

Strand IV Economic Perspective.  Short and long term benefits. Purchase, use and disposal of goods and services.  (Natural Capital, focus on our “income”  — renewable, sustainable sources and amounts — vs. using our capital or “savings”.)

Strand V Inquiry. Investigating problems of significance to society.  Mapping issues, researching, bringing them together, interacting, (Permaculture, overlapping functions) Learning how to pursue data, think critically, and communicate findings effectively.”

Information processing, using computers. Gathering and organizing information from a variety of sources.

Strand VI  Public Discourse and Decision Making.  Public policy issues of enduring importance. (Sustainability = enduring.) Trace the origins and perspectives, and the process of resolution of issues.  Democratic values, anticipating consequences, working toward making decisions. Engage one another in face-to-face conversation about matters of public concern. Clarify issues and work to resolve them by carefully considering opposing views, applying democratic values, and anticipating consequences.  Persuasive writing, reasoned arguments.

Strand VII Citizen Involvement.  Act constructively to further the public good. Serve their communities, prepare them to participate, serves and to regulate themselves responsibility and consider the effects of an individuals actions on other people; ethical obligations to people and the planet.



“If everyone on Earth lived like the average North American, and we utilized fully every productive acres (leaving no wilderness), we would need three Earths to support the present world population.”  Timeline July/August 1997, Donella Meadows.

Research is being done to quantify the amount of resources (in acres) needed to provide our products and energy uses. The Ecological Footprint is in use throughout the world to provide a sense of the relative ecological impact of our lives on the planet. “Acknowledging that nature has a finite capacity is not pessimistic”.  It points us in the direction we must go to preserve what we have, and very possibly, to improve our quality of life.  Kerala, a state in the south of India, has a per capita income of about a dollar a day, but its life expectancy, infant mortality, literacy and birth rates are similar to those of Europe.  c the reason is “good social capital” – a thriving democracy and high public investment in schools, health care and other social services according to Wackernagel and Rees founders of the Ecological Footprint. Calculate your Ecological Footprint at



Recommended websites:   The Online Sustainability Handbook created by the Michigan energy Educators Network (MEENet) funded by a grant from the Michigan Energy Office.  . Calculate your Ecological Footprint, your impact.   A very interactive, game-like Calculator.  A Calculator for young children.     Map the ecological and cultural sites in your community that contribute to “quality of life” and sustainability!  The Green Map System offers online information, icons and educational materials to assist youth & adults.

Deanne Bednar received a Masters Degree in Social Ecology from Goddard College in 1980 and developed/taught a “Sustainable Futures” course at the Orchard Lake Middle School, West Bloomfield Schools, MI, from 1981until her retirement in 1996. She is currently retired from formal teaching, yet still involved in educational endeavors. She has illustrated three books on natural building and teaches natural building and sustainable living skills. See photos and information on this work at She continues to share the Global Village project and offers hands-on natural building experiences for youth.

[1] William McDonough