Teaching for Sustainability in a Social Studies Methods Course:
Opportunities and Challenges
Lisa Brown Buchanan
Elizabeth O. Crawford
The University of North Carolina Wilmington
The teaching of environmental sustainability was explored in five sections of an elementary social studies methods course with pre-service teachers. Using surveys and structured discussions, we identified pre-service teachers’ beliefs about environmental sustainability in response to prior experiences, course readings, films, guest lecture, and group activities (e.g., simulations). Findings suggest the subjects’ knowledge of environmental sustainability increased as a result of the course. They believed environmental sustainability is a significant global issue meriting attention in the elementary classroom; however, they felt ill prepared to teach sustainability issues to young children in developmentally appropriate ways. Finally, pre-service teachers expressed caring about improving their own consumer behaviors and sought concrete solutions from others in order to do so. Implications for elementary social studies education are discussed.
Keywords: elementary social studies, environmental sustainability, pre-service teachers, teacher preparation, sustainability education