Open daily. Always free.

The Art of Sustainability, grades 3–5

A module created for grades 3–5


This module investigates ways artists represented in the Chazen’s permanent collection address environmental sustainability and the complex relationship between humans and nature. By carefully examining artwork from the Chazen’s collection, students will be able to consider what sustainability is and how it relates to them and their community.


Students will be able to:

  • Refine their observation skills by closely examining works of art.
  • Examine the complexity around issues of sustainability by looking at multiple perspectives.
  • Reflect on how their community and environment connect to sustainability.


Artworks from the Chazen Museum of Art’s collection included in the lesson plans address a variety of environmental issues including, but not limited to, pollution, natural disasters, and environmental racism.The artwork is diverse in medium, subject, tone and message. However, several universal themes are present.

The artwork in the lesson plans connects to sustainability through:

  • Examining community, environment, and place
  • Considering our environmental impact on the future
  • Bringing awareness to environmental issues


The close-looking prompts here help students make observations and think critically about the works of art. After the students take a close look and record their observations, they can proceed to the guided discussion questions and learning activities to connect the artwork and themes to their experiences.

This collection of lesson plans includes

  • An introduction the topic of sustainability (discuss before looking at the artwork) with additional resources
  • Close-looking prompts to help students examine the artwork
  • Lesson plans with a link to the artwork image, background information on artwork and artists, discussion questions, and learning activities

Relevant Standards

Art & Design:

3-5 A.A.Pr.4.i: Develop Meaning: Explore and make connections through comparison of artwork from personal, historical, and contemporary artists.

3-5 A.A.R.8.i: Interpret: Use details, subject matter, and context to interpret an artwork’s mood or meaning.

3-5: A.A.R.7.i: Analyze: Compare and contrast how the use of media can influence ideas.

Environmental Literacy and Sustainability:

3-5: ELS.EX3.C.i Describe how cultures relate to their environments.

3-5 ELS.EX5.A.i Explain how one’s cultural identity and views can influence decision-making and sustainability in natural and cultural systems. Identify parts, relationships, and perspectives present in a local issue, and examine the impact of individual and group choices on natural and cultural systems.

3-5 ELS.EN6.B.i Analyze the role of civic and personal ideals in enhancing natural and cultural systems. Analyze the short- and long-term impact of personal choices on the environment and sustainable communities. Investigate how individual and societal rights and responsibilities relate to healthy environments and sustainable communities.

3-5: ELS.EN6.C.i Understand the differences between renewable and nonrenewable natural resources and the outcomes of using each type of resource on the environment and people.