EfS Curriculum Design & The Cloud Approach - FAQ's

Jaimie Cloud answers the most frequently asked questions about EfS curriculum design and the Cloud approach.

Q. Is this another “add on”? Where am I going to get the time? I am swamped as it is! I have no more time in my day or in my curriculum! A. No. Education for a sustainable future is not an “add on”. It is education that contributes to the future we want. Educating for an unsustainable future doesn’t make any sense—no matter how much time you have or don’t have. Don’t think of the curriculum as a crowded room that people keep trying to stuff more and more things into. Think of the curriculum as a rich colorful garden. The richer and the more productive the better—and it all happens within the same amount of time and space. Here are some useful analogies: When you add children or new friends to your life, your day does not get longer. You re-orient your day. You consolidate. You integrate. You prioritize. You accomplish more than one goal at a time… . When you add a new vocabulary word to your lexicon, your head does not get bigger. In fact, your sentences often get shorter, because finding a precise way to say something is more efficient and more effective, and therefore saves time.

Tap the power of limits. When you embed the attributes of EfS into your curriculum through “backwards design”, the learning is precise, authentic, effective, applicable, sticky, engaging, transferable and causes more and varied cognitive connections to be made. It takes time up-front to re-orient the curriculum—that is certainly true, and it saves more time over time, increases student achievement and civic participation, produces happy teachers, improves school culture and contributes to sustainable community indicators (citations). If you are already achieving all those outcomes consistently over time, you are already educating for sustainability and by all means keep doing what you are doing. If not, educate for sustainability. The goal: Healthy and sustainable communities in which our children can reach their individual and collective potential. The means: Education for Sustainability. Next question?

Q. The science teachers already teach about the environment. Why do we have to do this too? A. EfS is not about the environment. It is not even about sustainability, and it is certainly not about the indicators of un-sustainability (pollution, destruction of rainforests, etc.). EfS is education for a healthy, vibrant and sustain-able future for generations to come. It is completely interdisciplinary and includes the “hard” sciences, the arts and humanities and a great number of social sciences. After all, we are the ones who need to learn how to live sustainably on the planet. Education of any kind always yields results. The “learned curriculum” includes “the hidden curriculum” as well as the explicit one. Why not be intentional about the future we want by explicitly educating for it?

Q. How can I educate for sustainability when I have to teach to the test? A. Standardized tests are an indicator of student achievement. They are not the goal of a great education. The more you manage the indicators, the harder and harder it will be to achieve them and you will create new problems by doing so. (It mimics the “Shifting the Burden Archetype” in System Dynamics literature in which the symptom is addressed in the short run, but over time, becomes worse and worse and creates new problems.) In addition, standardized tests measure 13% of the Content and Performance Standards students must meet (Martin-Kniep). Having said that, there is growing evidence that educating for sustainability increases student achievement, and achievement measured by standardized tests (citations). Educators for Sustainability rely on State and Common Core Standards as base knowledge and skills into which we embed the attributes of EfS. If your students are meeting the Standards by being educated for sustainability, it will increase their chances of doing fine on the tests AND it will increase their chances and future generations’ chances to thrive over time. EfS solves more than one problem at a time and minimizes the creation of new problems. That makes it a sustainable innovation for schools.


Q. Can you walk me through what it looks like when all the parts of the EfS framework are implemented? A. Yes. We have a tool called the EfS Reality Check that we designed for this purpose. You can find the beta version at http://efsrealitycheck.cloudinstitute.org/. It will be revised again this year so stay tuned. In a nutshell, we begin by inviting a representative group of stakeholders in the school community (everyone or a sub group—depending on the school) to attend an introduction to sustainability and education for sustainability.

The introduction is designed to:

  1. Develop a shared understanding and vocabulary

  2. Give everyone a chance to develop a personal rationale for educating for sustainability

  3. Inspire everyone to be hopeful about the role of teaching and learning in making the shift toward sustainability.

Then we invite a First Cohort of educators to innovate (sustainablize) units of study and to produce exemplars that other educators in the community can see. That is how we get Cohorts Two, Three and so on. There are designers, adapters and deliverers in every building. We work with them all at the appropriate levels of engagement. While we are regularly working with the faculty who are ready and able to innovate curriculum, we are also working with administrators to help them create the policies and practices necessary for the school to become a learning organization that educates for sustainability.


Q. What do we need to know, be able to do and be like if we are to contribute to our ability to thrive over time? How can we ensure that our students are being educated for sustainability? A. Complete an inquiry online, or call The Cloud Institute directly 212-645-9930.

I hope this list of common questions and our anwers has been useful to you.


Jaimie P. Cloud, Founder and President
The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education



  • Academy for Educational Development (2007). An evaluation of the Cloud Institute’s “Business and Entrepreneurship Education for the 21st Century” and Inventing the Future curricula. Washington: AED.

  • Barrat Hacking, E., Scott, B., and Lee, E. (2010). Evidence of impact of sustainable schools. Bath, U.K.: University of Bath, Center for Research in Education and the Environment. Downloaded April 16, 2010 from http://publications.teachernet.gov.uk/eOrderingDownload/00344-2010BKT-EN.pdf

  • Duffin, M., Murphy, M., & Johnson, B. (2008). Quantifying a relationship between place-based learning and environmental quality: Final report. Woodstock, VT: NPS Conservation Study Institute in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency and Shelburne Farms. 

  • Duffin, M., & PEER Associates (2007). Why use place-based education? Four answers that emerge from the findings of PEEC, the Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative, (Presentation version). Retrieved on May 10, 2011 from http://www.peecworks.org/PEEC/PEEC_Reports/S01248363-0124838

  • Sobel, D. (2008). Nature and children: design principles for educators. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers

  • Ofsted, The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (2009) Education for Sustainable Development: Improving Schools - Improving Lives. Manchester, UK. Crown http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/education-for-sustainable-development-improving-schools-improving-lives

  • Gayford Christopher (2009) Learning for Sustainability: from the pupils’ perspective. Godalming, Surrey: World Wide Fund for Nature http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/wwf_report_final_web.pdf