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My Green City

Elementary, Middle


Students work in small groups to design a sustainable city. After exploring examples of innovation in some of the world’s best known cities they consider specific sustainability challenges that must be overcome to meet the energy, transportation, food, green space and waste management needs of the urban population.

After investigating further how cities have developed sustainable solutions to each of these five challenges, teams brainstorm the specific elements they will include in their urban designs. Upon agreement, the group first creates a 2-dimensional scale plan of their city to serve as a template for a 3-dimensional model.

Culminating activities include a ‘class tour’ of the different 3-D cities, evaluating the sustainability features of the various designs and the creation of a "Sustainability Charter" to guide all citizens in bringing a more sustainable lifestyle to their communities.

Students are supported with a number of excellent tools that include slide presentations, planning outlines, templates for drawing and designs work and links to additional information.

The challenge requires students have a basic understanding of sustainability.


General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • collaboration
  • presentation
  • 2D vs 3D representations
  • drawing to scale
  • developing a design key


  • A well-designed STEM activity
  • An interesting challenge students can relate to
  • Lots of tools to support student learning
  • The resource is up to date and easy to use

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This challenge allows students to demonstrate their understanding of sustainable development in a tangible way.  As such it can be considered a valuable resource in any unit of study that deals with sustainability.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

  • Step 1Select a province
  • Alberta
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Active citizenship contributes to the vitality of communities that can promote pluralism among diverse people in a democratic society.
  • Manitoba
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Technological Education
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Human Ecology: food and Nutrition - Citizenship and Sustainability
    • Grade 6
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Technological Education
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Human Ecology: Food and Nutrition - Citizenship and Sustainability
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Technological Education
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Human Ecology: Food and Nutrition - Citizenship and Sustainability
  • New Brunswick
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 6
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • World Cultures: Environment and Culture
  • Nova Scotia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies 4: Humans and the Physical Environment
    • Grade 6
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies 6: World Issues
  • Ontario
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • People and Environments: Political and Physical Regions of Canada
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • People and Environments: The Role of Government and Responsble Citizenship
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Global Settlement: Patterns and Sustainability
  • Prince Edward Island
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 6
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • World Issues
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Saskatchewan: Resources and Wealth

Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (1)

    • Community-Building and Participation
  • Energy (2)

    • Alternative Energy
    • Energy Generation
  • Food & Agriculture (2)

    • Food Security
    • Local Food
  • Human Health & Environment (1)

    • Quality of Life
  • Land Use & Natural Resources (2)

    • Sustainable Urbanization
    • Transportation
  • Waste Management (1)

    • Source Reduction

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

Students create their own sustainable designs based on information from different sources and the experiences of different cities as described in the resource materials.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

The students must consider the interplay of the three dimensions to complete the task of designing a 'green' city.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

The task of designing a sustainable city illustrates the complexity of the challenge of meeting environmental, social and economic needs. 

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered

Action does not go beyond reflecting and planning stages.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Good

Student values are formed and reflected in collaboration with other team members in the design process.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

Not considered.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

The importance of the natural world and the benefits of incorporating nature into the urban landscape are made clear.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

Examples of urban sustainable design from different cities are provided to illustrate what is possible.  The students' designs are influenced by their own communities and experience.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

Attention is paid to the growth of our ecological footprint over time and the need for changes in our behavior going forward.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

Students rely on lessons learned from urban case studies and factual information relating to energy use, food supply, transportation, nature and waste.   Links to a range of additional sources of information are also provided.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

The lesson addresses outcomes in geography, technology, social studies and citizenship education

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

This stem lesson is presented as a challenge for teams of students to complete with some direction from the teacher.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Good

Students gather information from slides, printed material and on-line research.  The design component of the challenge compliments a range of learning styles.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Good

The challenge requires that students attempt to solve real-world problems related to sustainability.  There is a significant 'hands-on component' to the design requirements of the challenge.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

Students work in collaborative groups to plan, design and evaluate the success of their model cities.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Poor/Not considered

While meaningful opportunities for evaluation are present, assessment tools and suggestions are not included in the resource.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Poor/Not considered

Peer teaching opportunities are limited to working as a member of a team to design, build and present a model of a sustainable city.  

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good

Students  gain a good deal of their information and ideas from examples of how existing cities  have addressed sustainability.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Very Good
Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.