The Rings of Sustainability

Sustainable Thinking Dispositions – An introduction to the Cornish College model of sustainability

Developing thinking dispositions are an important element of curricula worldwide based on the philosophy of John Dewey and developed by David Perkins through Harvard Project Zero. Thinking is more than ability. It also depends on developing a behavioural tendency or ‘disposition’ that includes developing the skills to structure an orderly solution to a problem, an inclination to act on the issue and an alertness to many possible ways to address the issue or problem. 

Cornish College has developed sustainable thinking dispositions, which are represented by the rings of sustainability. Many schools in Victoria, as well as schools in Singapore, India and Hong Kong have adopted this. We believe that an important responsibility of schooling for citizens of the 21st century is to think sustainably – to have the necessary skills for a global world, to have the inclination to act sustainably and to solve problems and to be alert to the many possible ways we can make a difference.

We have designed our curricular and cocurricular programs around the four interlocking rings, each with a set of focus questions. This design allows us to address the Victorian Curriculum F-10 framework as well as the requirements of the International Baccalaureate.

Natural sustainability

Do our students understand the importance of natural areas and our responsibilities towards them? Are they scientifically literate, understanding the importance of biodiversity, the research on sustainability and the implications of new innovations on the environment? Do they understand how to manage their global footprint?

Personal sustainability

Are our students healthy mentally and physically? Are they aware of their learning styles and how they learn best? Do they have skills to live effectively and affectively with others? Are they developing life long hobbies and interests to build resilience and well being? Can they communicate clearly in English, other languages, and through Mathematics and the Arts?

Urban/Technological sustainability

Are our cities sustainable? How are they supplied and how do they interact with rural areas? What are our roles and responsibilities as urban citizens? Are we technologically sustainable? Do we know where and how components are sourced and how they are disposed?

Socio-Cultural sustainability

Do our students understand other cultures’ histories, beliefs and values as well as their economic, political systems and legal systems?


Cornish College’s students, staff and community members forming the ‘Rings of Sustainability’ during Make a Difference Week, 2015.

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