In conversation with teacher and learning resource specialist Robert Benjamins

Incorporating sustainability into your lessons can be quite a challenge. There are many themes and teaching materials that can be used for this. The page Learning for Sustainable Development on Wikiwijs helps you on your way. Here, teaching materials are shared for and by teachers on various themes. These themes are linked to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and include sustainability in a broad sense. We spoke to biology teacher and learning resource specialist Robert Benjamins about what teachers can expect from this page and how to find and share good teaching materials around sustainable themes.

How did you get in touch with Learning for Sustainable Development?
"During my biology studies, I got a fair idea of how fragile some ecosystems are. At the same time, I rolled into the teaching profession and started to get interested in education. It seemed interesting to do something with that in classes. Then I looked at what opportunities there were in that. In my master's I did an internship with Foodvalley Network. This organization is the point of contact between Wageningen University and secondary schools. Through this organization I became involved in the development of lesson modules for the subject nlt on sustainability, and I came into contact with the project around Learning for Sustainable Development on Wikiwijs."

Why is it important for you to engage in this?
"During my education, I gained a reasonable understanding of issues that deal with the survival of ecosystems and the role humans play in them. In education, I see that there are still quite a few misunderstandings among students and that there is not always awareness of this in society. It is small steps in people's behavior that make a difference. For example, I find it very unfortunate to see people just throwing cigarette butts on the ground on the street. There is a plastic filter in there and if you throw it away like that then the plastic ends up on the street. Suppose everyone would throw it in the ashtray, then we are already rid of one of the biggest sources of plastic in nature. So especially creating awareness is important."

Can you give an example of how you incorporate this into your teaching?
"I am somewhat privileged as a biology teacher in that regard, because it is quite easy for me to link sustainability to biology topics. For example, when I explain about food pyramids, I can immediately add what the student's role is in such a system. For example, I can explain that what they eat matters in how much energy is consumed in the production of food. It is especially important to focus on the small things students can do themselves and not just dwell on negative scares. It is important that students see what we are already doing and how they can participate in it in a positive way. Linking to lesson content can be done quite easily in biology, but there are plenty of opportunities in other subjects as well. For example, a physics teacher can connect themes to lessons about energy. All the different subjects have possibilities."

Can you explain what WikiWise is?
"WikiWijs is a fairly large website where everyone can share teaching materials with each other. That ensures that there is an awful lot of material available that you can use when you want to work on a particular topic."

Why was the Learning for Sustainable Development page set up?
"It can sometimes be difficult to see which materials fit well with sustainability. Not all teachers are obviously experts in teaching about sustainability and do want to get into it. That's why we created the Learning for Sustainable Development page. Teachers of different subjects can find teaching materials here on all kinds of topics related to sustainability."

What can teachers expect from the page Learning for Sustainable Development?
Here teachers can find teaching materials focused on sustainability in a broad sense. It is not only about the green topics like the earth, biodiversity and ecosystems, but also about how we can continue to treat each other sustainably. So you'll also find themes like health and equality. We base the page on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These are the goals established by the United Nations to make the world a better place by 2030."

How can teachers submit materials for this page?
"Anyone can share teaching materials on this page, and we also keep an eye on the offerings on WikiWise to see which publications fit well. Suppose you have found or created teaching material that you think fits well on the page, you can email it to Then one of the learning resource specialists will look at the material and assess whether it fits on the page. Suitable learning materials are also given the Seal of Approval Learning for Sustainable Development."

Who are the learning resource specialists?
"These are a number of volunteers who have an affinity for education and sustainability. I'm involved from the biology side, but we also have people involved from the physics and society side. There is also someone who knows a lot about the Sustainable Development Goals in general. We are coordinated and supported by Cooperative Learning for Tomorrow and Municipalities for Sustainable Development. When an application comes in, one of us picks it up and they go and see if it fits the page."

What do you pay attention to when reviewing teaching materials?
"On the website page you will find the 'view quality criteria' button and there you can see what we look for when we look at teaching materials. The teaching materials should meet the critical criteria and basic criteria that are listed between them. Then there are also some quality criteria and those are meant as further inventory of the material. The core of the critical and basic criteria is mainly that there is room for students to develop their own opinions, it is not an advertisement, and the teacher can use it adequately."

What advice would you give to teachers who want to get started on the SDGs?
"Then I would give the same advice to people who want to get involved in sustainability in the first place: it's the small steps that make a difference. Just by highlighting a topic a little more, such as explaining why as a teacher you use a reusable drinking bottle these days, you can already make a difference. If you want to start working further on sustainability in lessons, I hope our wiki page can be a nice starting point and source of inspiration. So be sure to take a look."

Take a look around WikiWise!
The button below will take you to the page Learning for Sustainable Development. Here you can find teaching materials for different themes for PO, VO and MBO!

Robert Benjamins
After studying biology in Wageningen, Robert entered the teaching profession. He works at the VAVO department of the RijnIJssel. He also helps students find reliable information for e.g. theses as an information specialist at the HAN. As one of the teaching resource specialists, he contributes to the Learning for Sustainable Development page on WikiWijs, where you can find teaching materials on various topics related to the Sustainable Development Goals.

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