How Science & Spanish teachers collaborate to change the world!

In Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, AP Environmental Science teacher, Kelly Holtzman, and Spanish teacher, Danielle Chaussee have formed a unique collaboration. 

Using the lens of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) and the Asia Society’s Global Competencies, Kelly and Danielle have successfully blended their subject areas to create a one of a kind Global Sustainability course.  The course is designed to be a vehicle for students to investigate the world, understand global perspectives, develop professional skills, such as the ability to effectively communicate with others, and be empowered to take action. 

Danielle, as a Fellow in the US Department of State’s Teachers for Global Classrooms (TGC) Program and Kelly, with an advanced degree in Environmental Science and Natural Resources, believed strongly that students should have opportunities to connect with experts in their area of expertise and should be exposed to relevant learning that they can apply in their local community and beyond. 

Although teachers of two very different content areas, Kelly and Danielle realized that they often taught similar topics from different angles, such as climate change. That’s when they had an idea: Why not propose a course that combined their approaches, along with the perspectives and expertise of community partners, to empower their students to take action on global issues? With the strong support of their school and district administration, Kelly and Danielle made this course a reality. 

While learning how to live more sustainably to protect the planet is certainly a focus of the course, the teachers say it’s difficult to separate the UNSDGs from each other. 

“One of our major goals is to show students how interconnected all the SDGs are, as well as to help our students see how they, as global citizens, are so tightly interconnected with the rest of the world,” Danielle said. 

In the course, students not only learn about the impacts that their actions have on the planet, but they also learn how they can take action to make a difference. 

“We want to empower our students to be agents of change in the world,” Kelly said.

Kelly and Danielle say they have learned that solutions to global problems, such as climate change (UNSDG #13-Climate Action), require a global perspective and a multi-faceted approach. For Kelly and Danielle, that’s where Goal #17 (Partnerships) comes into play. One key partnership for them has been their work with Lisa Geason-Bauer of Evolution Marketing.

“Lisa has been an invaluable source of knowledge on sustainability in the business world and has provided us with multiple connections to resources, guest speakers, and community partners who are focused on the UNSDGs in their own work,” Danielle said. 

From these experts, students learn firsthand what the issues are, what the needs are, and how they can help, via projects that target climate action. 

For example, last year, Danielle and Kelly’s Global Sustainability class worked with a variety of community partners, including the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) of Wisconsin, a nonprofit group that advocates for utility consumers. One of their main projects involved translating CUB’s community education materials into Spanish, making the information accessible to a wider audience. As a result of this partnership, Kelly and Danielle were recognized as 2020 Energy Educators of the Year.

This year, their students are working with the Waukesha County Green Team, a local environmental group, to produce podcasts in Spanish and English that educate the community about a wide variety of topics centered around climate action. For example, in a recent podcast, students interviewed a director of marine conservation about protecting the oceans. The students create these bilingual podcasts in order to provide the information to a wider audience. 

A new and exciting project that the class is working on is called Global Citizens of Today and Tomorrow. In this project, the Global Sustainability students work with 1st graders who are learning virtually. This project incorporates Spanish, along with the Explorers for the Global Goals themes, which are age appropriate UNSDGs. The Global Sustainability students design and record lessons in Flipgrid to teach the 1st graders. Recently, the Global Sustainability students taught a lesson about empathy and the environment as they modeled using a water test to measure pollutants in their water at home. With the help of their parents, the younger students completed the water testing.Then, the older students taught the 1st graders about challenges to accessing clean water in developing countries. Using Flipgrid, the enthusiastic younger students created videos to reply to the high school students and proudly demonstrate their learning. 

The teachers say there is no greater joy for an educator than to watch students take ownership of their learning and, in turn, educate and inspire a new generation of global citizens. 

Kelly and Danielle shared these resources to help get other educators started on their own journeys of forming partnerships and empowering their students to take action on climate change and infusing global competence into their classrooms.









Oconomowoc High School has been collaborating with AFS-USA for more than twenty years, hosting 36 exchange students since 2015 and advocating that students participate in study abroad programs. AFS-USA supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through curating resources for educators to use in their classroom, aligning our short-term study abroad programs with the SDGs and incorporating the SDGs into global competence professional development for educators. 

Resources to share: