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Bringing Systems & Sustainability into the Classroom

On April 9th Victoria Shanghai Academy hosted a virtual Compass Education (CE) workshop titled Introduction to the Compass Tools: Systems Thinking for Sustainability in the Classroom. This learning opportunity was made possible through the East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS). From 09:00h to 17:00h, three motivating facilitators, Kate Doré, Mark Mains, and Michelena McPherson, actively engaged the group of dynamic educators from around the EARCOS region in developing and deepening their understanding of the concepts of systems thinking and sustainability.

Joined together via a well-prepared virtual whiteboard (, the educators were invited to collaborate and ignite the power of systems thinking using two extremely accessible and versatile tools – The Sustainability Compass and the System Iceberg. This process facilitated the development of a shared language for conversations about sustainability and allowed for sense-making of complex issues such as ‘Covid 19’. Beginning with the Sustainability Compass, the participants worked in a group on a topic of their choice, followed by a facilitated discussion on how this tool helps us make invisible connections visible. We then follow on with the Systems Iceberg to delve deeper into issues relevant to our shared and individual contexts. The diverse backgrounds in teaching different ages, subjects, and leadership roles, allowed for a broad spectrum of perspectives on how educators and leaders could apply the CE tools as we inquired into the challenges of integrating sustainability values, principles, and practices into education.

The Learning engagements were facilitated via an infinite whiteboard ( allowing participants to collaborate as a whole group or in breakout rooms in small groups.
To warm-up, participants worked in two groups and used the compass to reflect on a topic of their choice – Service Learning and Planning a vacation.
Using the Sustainability Iceberg, participants learned how to identify leverage points for sustainable change as they delved deep into the examples of local and global issues using the UN SDGs.

Our six-hour time together concluded with an action planning session. Participants had an opportunity to work with one of the facilitators on their lesson plans and add to the curation of a shared document of lesson examples. They were finally left with a bank of lesson ideas they could immediately apply or adapt to their respective contexts and bring the learning to life for their students.

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Elaine Reimann

Elaine Reimann is an experienced International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme educator with over two decades of global teaching expertise. She specializes in curriculum coordination, sustainability, and systems thinking. Elaine's multilingual skills and experience across four continents enhance her cross-cultural understanding. She holds a Harvard Certificate of School Management and Leadership (CSML), a Graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning, and a Master’s in TESOL. Elaine currently works for an international NGO in Thailand, focusing on educational initiatives and organizational effectiveness.

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