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Authentic assessment

The demonstration of student knowledge in a variety of different ways and in “real-world” contexts.

Built environment

The buildings, roads, utilities, homes, fixtures, parks, and all other man-made entities that form the physical characteristics of a community.

Ecological systems

The collection of interconnected living organisms and the systems in which they co-exist.

Economic systems

The systems of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services between the entities in a particular society.

Education for sustainability

A combination of content, learning methods, and outcomes that helps students develop a knowledge base about the environment, the economy, and society, in addition to helping them learn skills, perspectives, and values that guide and motivate them to seek sustainable livelihoods, participate in a democratic society, and live in a sustainable manner.

Environmental education

A learning process that increases knowledge and awareness about the environment and associated challenges; develops the necessary skills and expertise to address these challenges; and fosters attitudes, motivations, and commitments to make informed decisions and take responsible action. It can include three dimensions: education about the environment, for the environment, and in the environment.

Habits of mind

A set of attributes identified by Drs. Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick that describe what “intelligent people do when they are confronted with problems, the resolution to which are not immediately apparent.” The 16 Habits of Mind identified by Costa and Kallick include: persisting; thinking and communicating with clarity and precision; managing impulsivity; gathering data through all senses; listening with understanding and empathy; creating, imagining, innovating; thinking flexibly; responding with wonderment and awe; thinking about thinking (metacognition); taking responsible risks; striving for accuracy; finding humor; questioning and posing problems; thinking interdependently; applying past knowledge to new situations; remaining open to continuous learning.


A connection (physical or logical) between multiple things.


A relationship in which things depend on one another for survival.

Natural environment

Living and non-living things that occur naturally on Earth.

Sense of place

Connecting to and valuing the places in which one lives or visits. Sense of place includes the feeling that a geographic location or community is a special place, distinct from anywhere else.

Social systems

The systems of a society that encompass human interactions, culture, and politics.


Meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability is a holistic approach to living and problem solving that addresses ecological health, social equity, and economic prosperity for present and future generations.

Sustainability education

See “education for sustainability”


A group of interacting, interrelated, and interdependent components that form a complex and unified whole. A system is a collection of “things” in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Some systems are “nested” within larger systems (e.g. the circulatory system is nested within the human body system).

Systems thinking

An approach to problem solving that involves the considerations of systems; interconnectedness; the whole versus its parts; respect for limits; unexpected consequences; and, identifying patterns, root causes, and leverage points for change.