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

Press Release: The Cloud Institute Releases New EfS Standards

For Immediate Release

The Cloud Institute Releases New Education for Sustainability (EfS)
Standards and Performance Indicators

(New York, New York) - - The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, a non-profit organization and leader in the field of education for sustainability is, for the first time, making their EfS Standards and Performance Indicators available for free as a download.

The 14-page package of nine EfS core standards and performance indicators were developed for PreK-12 school systems, and are designed to equip teachers and students with the new knowledge and ways of thinking needed to achieve economic prosperity and responsible citizenship while restoring the health of our living systems.

The interdisciplinary content standards replace the traditional problem-based approach to learning with pedagogy that is aspiration-based. “Moving toward an aspiration offers a broader perspective and solves more than one problem at a time, while minimizing the creation of new ones,” says Jaimie P. Cloud, founder of the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education. “Our standards promote greater awareness and sense of efficacy in students, and support teachers with a rich and highly flexible foundational system to educate for a sustainable future.”

The Department of Education has not approved a set of national standards for education for sustainability. This means that states, districts, and individual schools have an opportunity to enhance existing frameworks and curriculum by selecting the EfS Standards and Performance Indicators that are most closely aligned to their educational vision.

As part of The Cloud Institute’s teaching and learning system, these standards draw upon the most progressive fields of study - biomimicry, neuroscience, environmental ethics, systems thinking, and others - and have been aligned to Common Core, State Standards, Character Education, Cultural Competencies and Partnership for 21st Century Skills. The content is influenced by top leadership principles including The Entrepreneurial Mindset, Systems Thinking and System Dynamics, Characteristics of Resiliency, Habits of Mind (Costa and Kallick), and the attributes of catalytic or “quiet” leadership (David Rock).

The nine Core Content Standards are: Cultural Preservation and Transformation, Responsible Local and Global Citizenship, Dynamics of Systems and Change, Sustainable Economics, Healthy Commons, Natural Laws and Ecological Principles, Inventing and Affecting The Future, Multiple Perspectives and Sense Of Place.

According to Dr. Moira Wilkinson, The Cloud Institute’s Senior Director of Education and Research, “Any one of The Cloud Institute’s EfS Standards on their own, offer a valuable contribution to education. The nine core content standards that we promote, and the indicators that accompany them, are woven together to produce catalytic results. This collection is both comprehensive and rigorous, based on relevant and carefully selected fields of thought, and designed to integrate smoothly into existing programs.”

To learn more about the Cloud Institute’s EfS Standards and Performance Indicators and to download your free copy, visit /cloud-efs-standards

The Cloud Institute’s Education for Sustainability (EfS) Standards and Performance Indicator’s Q & A

Q. Who and what informed the development of these standards?

A.  Since 1987, Jaimie Cloud has been collecting and organizing opinions about the core competencies associated with being sustain-able on planet Earth.  Drawing from the literature and the work of selected scholars across a wide range of disciplines as well as her own experience educating for sustainability, The Cloud Institute’s EfS Standards and Performance Indicators have been developed, organized, tested, revised, and used to define the field and to design 21st century curriculum and systemic change, domestically and globally.  Our EfS Standards and Performance Indicators are informed by comprehensive research, drawing on publications and perspectives from the leading voices in the field of Education for Sustainability and complementary areas of study such as  Agenda 21 Chapter 36, the U.S. Task Force on Education for Sustainability, Robert Costanza, Herman Daly, Sabine O’Hara, Hazel Henderson, Fritjof Copra, Anne Perraca Bijur, Jack Byrne, Keith Wheeler, Jaimie Cloud, Karl Henrik Robert, Paul Mankiewicz, Julie Mankiewicz, Paul Ryan, Harland Cleveland, Edward DeBono, Buckminster Fuller, Garrett Harding, David Sobel, Paul Hawken, David Orr, Jean Perras, Peter Senge, Willard Kniep, Franziska Oswald, Lees Stuntz, Linda Booth Sweeney, Jonathan Rowe, Elinor Ostrom, Betty Sue Flowers, Wade Davis, Stephen Sterling, and Daniella Tilbury.

Q. Who is using them, how do they use them, and what difference are they making?

A. All Cloud Institute partners and clients, including districts, schools, and individuals, use our EfS Standards and Performance Indicators.  Now they are available to everyone.  Here is how we use them:  Once people gain a shared understanding of the meaning of sustainability and the attributes of Education for Sustainability, develop a personal rationale for why they should educate for sustainability, and become inspired and hopeful about contributing to sustainability through education, we introduce them to our Standards and Indicators so that educators and administrators may become familiar with, and align them to, their curriculum across grade levels and disciplines.  Then they all produce an integrated EfS curriculum map so everyone can access the big picture. No one teacher, grade level, discipline, course or unit does it all (though the richer the courses the more they can do). This is a collective effort. 

When alignment has been done, educators who are “early adopters” decide where to begin. They choose which unit they want to innovate and they choose the EfS Standard(s) and Performance Indicators that are appropriate for their students to address. They then embed the standards and indicators in their curriculum through a backwards design process. Understanding By Design (Wiggins) is a popular structure for this work.  With professional development and coaching from the Cloud Institute, they embed our EfS Standards and Indicators into their unit overviews, their assessments, their performance criteria and their lessons.  Over time, they look for evidence of them in student work.

Once the educators are ready to share their designs and exemplary student work samples, they “make the feedback visible, desirable, and doable,” and that inspires the next cohort of innovators, and so on.  In districts and schools that are ready and have administrative and organizational support, the time horizon for EfS to be the norm in curriculum and instruction is approximately 3-5 years.  Evidence shows that, over time, when districts and schools commit to EfS, they see concrete improvement in student learning and standards achievement, enhanced attitudes toward learning and students’ feelings of academic success.  Further, teachers report meaningful effects on their own attitudes and say that EfS helps both new and veteran teachers to achieve strong academic outcomes from their students.

Q. What Standards and Principles have these EfS Standards and Indicators been aligned to?

A. The Cloud Institute’s Standards and Indicators have been aligned to Common Core, State Standards, Character Education, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Cultural Competency, The Virtues, The Entrepreneurial Mindset, Systems Thinking and System Dynamics, Characteristics of Resiliency, Habits of Mind (Art Costa, Bena Kallick), and the attributes of catalytic or “quiet” leadership (David Rock).