About Sustainable Pittsburgh K-12 Challenge

The Sustainable Pittsburgh K-12 Classrooms Challenge

Sign-ups for the next K-12 Classroom Challenge will open in 2020.

The Sustainable Pittsburgh K-12 Classrooms Challenge is a classroom-based 18-week challenge designed for teachers and students to easily participate in sustainability Actions. Actions in the K-12 Challenge break sustainability down into its smallest actionable parts, allowing teachers and students to takle sustainability in a way that makes sense for the age, level, and ability of the class involved. The program is intended to provide resources, ideas, suggestions, and lesson plans to incorporate sustainability into student education in the classroom, and eventually, the school as a whole. It's FREE to join, and the competition is open to K-12 schools of all sizes. Every action makes a difference. What difference can your school make this year?

The first K-12 Classroom Challenge took place during the 2018-2019 yearlong competition, from October 2018 to January 2019, coinciding with the end of the 2018 SP Challenge on January 31, 2019. The Finale and Awards Celebration recognized the K-12 Classroom Challenge winner in addition to the Top Scorers from the 2018-19 SP Challenge. 

Where do I start?

Sign up and have a look at our K-12 Master Playbook to see the kinds of Actions your school could complete! We encourage teachers to get together and form a "Sustainability Squad" to work on a collective strategy and maximize points. You can also find some "easy actions" in the K-12 Master Playbook to get you started in the competition! 


What are the benefits to participating?

  • Free tools: Sustainability lesson plans and classroom activities aligned to Common Core Standards
  • Workshops: Network and share ideas during the SP Challenge's fall workshops
  • Impact: Track your school's actions and impacts through the Challenge website
  • Recognition: Gain public recognition for your school's sustainability efforts and impacts
  • Leadership: Educating students to lead the way to a sustainable future

Why 18 weeks?

In many schools, it is difficult for teachers and students to participate while school is not in session.  To facilitate full access to the program, it follows the academic calendar.  Schools are welcome to join the yearlong Challenge, if they wish. 

Wait, there are two different Challenges? Why? 

The yearlong competition (SP Challenge) focuses on workplaces and initiatives formed by and for employees. The SP Challenge focuses on employee engagement, policies, and facilities management, most often led by administrative staff and/or operations managers. We created the K-12 Classroom Challenge to be more student-centric, to provide opportunity for student leadership, and to bring sustainability initiatives into the classroom. The K-12 Classroom Challenge is therefore led by teachers and emphasizes sustainability education. Schools are welcome to participate in both the SP Challenge and the K-12 Classroom Challenge, understanding that these programs have distinct goals. The Action Checklists for both show the full list of possible actions. Looking through these can help participants better understand the distinction between the two: SP Challenge Action Checklist; K-12 Classroom Action Checklist 

How does it work?

Submitting Actions

At Sustainable Pittsburgh, we believe that every action makes a difference. That is why each action in the Sustainable Pittsburgh K-12 Challenge is rewarded with points. Each participating teacher can accumulate points for their school by completing any of the actions in the K-12 Master Playbook.  Schools may have one or multiple teachers participating; there are no minimum or maximum teacher participant requirements.

Actions will be submitted through the SP Challenge website.

Actions in the K-12 Master Playbook are organized in three sections:
  • Easy Plug-ins: Ideas to Incorporate Sustainablity into Existing Lessons
    • These actions are simple ways to create opportunity for sustainability education in the classroom. By tweaking activities as simply as switching out an example sentence, a math problem, or an essay to something related to one of the seven Sustainability Focus Areas, we begin to expose students to the sustainability ideals of simultaneously improving equity, the economy, and the environment.
  • Classroom Exercises: Lesson Plans to Teach a Specific Aspect of Sustainability
    • The lesson plans for exercises provide a framework for teachers to bring a more specific aspect of sustainability into their classrooms. Each lesson plan has a timeframe, materials needed, approximate grade level, and a list of corresponding Common Core Standards that the lesson addresses. The lesson procedure is customizable to student and teacher needs.
  • Tasks and Projects: Inspiring Sustainable Lifestyles
    • This section is full of projects that are generally either longer-term or involve some extracurricular effort on the part of students or teachers or both. These actions have tiers of points to distinguish the steps required to bring the project to completion.

The Sustainable Pittsburgh K-12 Challenge takes seven Sustainability Focus Areas and applies them to actions in the K-12 Master Playbook.  Much like the yearlong competition, the Sustainability Focus Areas for the K-12 Challenge are: Social Equity, Engagement, Air Quality, Water, Energy, Transportation, and Materials Management.


Similar to the yearlong Sustainable Pittsburgh Challenge, schools may be placed into competitive divisions to ensure a fair and equitable comparison between schools. The divisions will be based on a combination of factors including number of teachers participating, student population, student to teacher ratio, and socio-economic range of the school zone. Divisions, if any are required to ensure a fairer competition, are released after the final day of sign-ups. 

Point Structure

Schools will earn points through their teachers for any new sustainability initiatives taken on during the competition.  Schools can also earn points for sustainability initiatives already in place, if they are ongoing, kept up-to-date, well-maintained, and continue having impact on the students, teachers, school, and/or community.  For example, one of the actions is to have students start a sustainability club.  If your school already has a group of students actively involved in such a club, you may submit the existing club’s mission and recent meeting minutes to fulfill the requirements for that action.

How do I learn more?

We are happy to meet with you to help you sign up, develop your custom “game plan,” and discuss how you can engage others in your school. If you’d like us to visit your school, just contact us at challenge@sustainablepittsburgh.org or 412-258-6642. You can also review the Sustainable Pittsburgh K-12 Master Playbook for more information.

http://www.healthordisease.com http://nosubhealth.com http://healthlibr.com