Project-Based Learning

Sustainable Urban Design: Educator’s Toolkit


How can we use sustainable solutions, including green infrastructure, to reduce the impacts of human activities on the environment?

In an era of rapid urbanization coupled with the impacts of climate change, this question is more important than ever. It can be asked about any environment or ecosystem, of course, but it is increasingly critical that we address sustainability in an urban environment.

Currently, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities and the United Nations projects that by the year 2050 this number will increase to over 66% of the world’s population. With this increase in urban residents comes higher demand for and increased stress on natural resources. At the same time, the potential for innovation, community, and cooperation to address this demand also increases. This toolkit is designed to address both of these trends.

A sustainable city addresses the environmental impacts of providing and using the many services all those people require, including energy, clean water and air, and healthy food, as well as the output of air and water pollution and other waste generated by the city. Whether you are looking for a small-scale project like increasing the native plants in a garden or can implement a larger project, such as a green roof, the toolkit provides ways for you and your students to be part of the community solution to current environmental challenges. The toolkit offers detailed information on three categories of sustainable urban design: the creation of urban habitats; changes in grounds management; and green stormwater infrastructure and allows teachers of all grade-levels to:

  • Learn more about green infrastructure.
  • Scope the feasibility of conducting a sustainable urban design project with students on school grounds or in the community.
  • Determine the type of project best suited for a given location.
  • Identify community partners to engage in the design and/or implementation of such a project.
  • Identify funding sources for projects.
  • Explore how to maintain projects over the long-term.
  • Use projects as part of a learning lab or outdoor classroom in perpetuity.

The projects in the toolkit are suitable for sites on school grounds, at private residences, in the community, or at local businesses, unless otherwise noted.