• Blog
  • »
  • Igniting Passion Through SDGs and Video Creation in the Classroom

Igniting Passion Through SDGs and Video Creation in the Classroom

/ Ron Nober

Young girl looking at something through magnifying glass. Magenta filter on top of image.

Ask teachers today one of their frustrations in the classroom and many will mention students' attention spans. Some studies have estimated student attention spans to be as little as 8 seconds. However, the real question is are we seeking attention or engagement? Neil A. Bradbury states, “Although the two concepts are related, they are nonetheless distinct. As an educator, if you have your students’ attention, you can pour information into them; but if you have their engagement, they are actively craving content from you.”

I argue that most educators are seeking engagement, and one powerful way to achieve this is by incorporating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs can ignite student passion and awareness of the world around them.

Additionally, in a time where engaging students is a challenge, video presents a compelling solution. Educators need to go beyond merely delivering information to students and video creation offers an avenue for students to be actively engaged in their learning journey.

Here lies the connection between video creation and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs, with their diverse and globally relevant themes, provide a rich tapestry for students to explore, express, and connect with the world. By leveraging the dynamic and visually immersive nature of video, educators can not only sustain attention but also foster genuine engagement.

This article delves into the powerful connection between video creation and the SDGs, exploring how this innovative approach not only addresses the challenges of engagement but also sparks a passion for positive change among students.

The power of the SDGs


The SDGs are 17 interconnected goals adopted by all of the United Nations Member states in 2015. The SDGs agenda “provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.” Some of the goals are Zero Poverty, Gender Equality, Responsible Consumption and Production, and Climate Action. Working with the SDGs easily aligns with 21st Century Skills like global awareness, civic literacy, health literacy, environmental literacy, information and media literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation.

Today's student perspectives

Our current generations of students are more aware of global issues than previous generations. This may be attributed to social media, the 24/7 news cycle, or other factors. But, this awareness can sometimes lead to stress.

According to EdWeek Research Center survey, 37 percent of teens felt anxious when thinking about climate change, and more than a third felt afraid. 43 percent of high school students also said events and issues in the news caused them anxiety or stress at least some of the time.

However, introducing students to the SDGs not only exposes students to stories about individuals actively pursuing solutions but also serves as a source of inspiration, motivating them to take action. This engagement instills a sense of participation in a positive movement, encouraging students to see themselves as contributors to that ongoing narrative.

Video creation

In our digital age, students are intimately familiar with video content, regularly encountering it on platforms like YouTube, Instagram Reels, or TikTok. As Michael Hernandez, author of Storytelling With Purpose: Digital Projects To Ignite Student Curiosity, notes in an Edutopia article, “By telling their stories through multimedia, students develop skills in critical thinking, writing, research, and collaboration, as well as owning their learning and effecting change.”

The creation of videos seamlessly parallels various forms of writing, such as persuasive, argumentative, informational, narrative, journalistic, and even poetry. Just consider the persuasive nature of a commercial or the informational and narrative depth of a documentary.

Interestingly, the stages of the writing process — pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing — remain in video creation; only the end product differs. This presents an exciting opportunity, especially for our more reluctant writers. Angela Stockman, in her book Make Writing: 5 Teaching Strategies That Turn Writer’s Workshop Into a Maker Space, challenges the conventional approach, stating, 'Maybe the problem isn’t the writer. Maybe it’s the way we’re defining and teaching writing.'

By embracing video creation, particularly through the lens of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), students can unleash their creativity, sharing ideas and passions with a broader audience.

Integration of SDGs in class

Bringing the SDGs into your classroom offers a wide variety of entry points. Whether through impactful videos or thought-provoking books like Do Something for Someone Else: Meet 12 Real-life Children Spreading Kindness with Simple Acts of Everyday Activism by Michael Platt and Loll Kirby, or Old Enough to Save the Planet by Loll Kirby (Author) and Adelina Lirius (Illustrator), there are various avenues to initiate these discussions.

Consider seamlessly incorporating SDGs into your existing lessons. In a science class delving into environmental science? Explore SDGs 6, 12, 13, 14, and/or 15. Addressing health-related topics? Bring attention to goals 1, 2, or 3. Even in math classes covering area, perimeter, or volume, you can incorporate SDG 11 by designing houses or cities. Language arts classes also offer rich opportunities; for instance, the book A Long Walk To Water by Linda Sue Park connects with SDGs 4, 5, 6, and/or 10. Encourage students to identify which SDGs align with the lessons, fostering a dynamic and interconnected learning experience. You'll be amazed at the insightful connections students can make!

Video creation and the SDGs

As students become acquainted with the SDGs and discover goals that resonate with them, creativity begins to flourish. A good starting point involves having students craft Public Service Announcements (PSAs) centered around the SDG(s) they are passionate about.

The creation of these short 30-60 second videos is not just about expressing ideas visually; it also involves critical thinking and communication skills. Students must carefully contemplate the impact of clips, sounds, music, and messaging in their videos. Consider sharing student videos with an authentic real-world audience, whether it's through the school website, links in a classroom newsletter, or on the classroom or school social media account. This sharing with an authentic audience fosters a sense of purpose beyond the typical assignment.

Students can further explore their passions by delving more in depth, turning those PSAs into short documentaries and collaborating with other students, local businesses, politicians, or community members. Through video, students learn they can make real-world impacts. When you introduce video creation into the classroom combined with passions, there is no telling the amazing things that can happen.

View some of the videos created by my students:

6th grade student’s video on SDG13 Climate Action.

6th grade student’s video on SDG6 Clean Water and Sanitation.

6th grade student’s video on SDG4 Quality Education and SDG5 Gender Equality.

3rd grade students' video on SDG13 Climate Action, SDG14 Life Below Water, and SDG15 Life on Land.

Implementation tips

There is always a bit of trepidation when it comes to adding something new into a classroom. My suggestion when it comes to the SDGs is just try it; jump in and see where it takes you. I continue to be amazed at the innovation, creativity, empathy, and compassion of students. If you’re not comfortable with video creation yet, you can also use WeVideo to have students create animated GIFs or podcasts about the SDGs. 

And there are plenty of SDG-related resources to help you get started.

Solutionaries: Concluding a journey of SDG-inspired creativity

In our quest to engage students more effectively and address the growing global awareness that can sometimes lead to stress, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stand out as one possible solution. These goals not only expose students to the awareness and understanding of world leaders grappling with critical issues but also invite them to investigate the inspiring stories of everyday individuals working for positive change, including the remarkable efforts of young people like themselves such as Bye Bye Plastic Bags.

Closing this discussion with the term "solutionary," inspired by Zoe Weil's impactful work, reflects the potential of embracing the SDGs in education. By integrating these global objectives into the learning journey, educators empower students to discover passion and purpose beyond traditional education. It's a journey that goes beyond the role of passive information consumers, paving the way for students to become active creators and, perhaps, emerging solutionaries in their own right.

This idea marks a shift in education, challenging the conventional wisdom that knowledge is power. In today's world, where information is readily available, true empowerment lies in what we do with that knowledge. Embracing the SDGs not only equips students with a deeper understanding of the world but also encourages them to actively shape it. It prompts them to ask crucial questions: What can I do with this knowledge? Whom can I inspire? Whom can I help? What can I create?

Ron Nober.
Ron Nober
Ron Nober is a technology/STEAM teacher from Southampton Township Schools in Southampton, New Jersey, USA. He is interested in design thinking, solutionary thinking, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), social entrepreneurship, and creativity in the classroom. He believes today’s students can be “game-changers'' who can learn to use technology and positive social media for global good. Ron is also the co-host of the Teachernerdz Podcast.