spiral one spiral two spiral three spiral four spiral five spiral six spiral seven spiral eight spirals nine short program sprial eight seven six five three two one short program

The Curriculum is:

The SPIRALS curriculum is composed of 9 activity based lessons or "spirals" that guide learners on an investigation into the concept of sustainability.

To view the curriculum you can click on each "spiral" in the figure to the left. When you click on a particular spiral, you will be taken to a page where you can view the unit plan for that spiral (1-9).


The curriculum is unique because of its deep roots in the exploration of traditional ecological /community-based knowledge through mapping activities. Another benefit of the curriculum is groups have the opportunity to document their program experiences and post the maps they create during their activities on our custom Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping platform (eSPIRALS). Through the eSPIRALS platform groups can share their completed sustainability project stories with other SPRIALS groups or the public.

Customizable – Full and Short Program Options

The SPIRALS curriculum is both flexible and customizable. The full program of 9 spirals is estimated to take 15-24 hours to complete. For mentors who have limited time with their groups we have also developed a "Short Program Spiral" designed to familiarize groups in less time (12-15 hours). This short program combines some of the core spirals concepts covered in spirals 1-3 so mentors can more quickly jump into spiral 4 of the curriculum to conduct an investigation into a local sustainable practice.

Regarding customization, registered mentors involved in the SPIRALS program will have access through the eSPIRALS platform to a "customize curriculum" page where they can adapt and print the curriculum. In addition to adding notes and suggestions for their own use, mentors also have the option of sharing these additions with other SPRIALS mentors or incorporating the suggestions made by other mentors to their revised curriculum. By offering this customization, mentors help design the curriculum to cater the SPIRALS experience specifically to the age level, interests, and capabilities of their learners.


We are here to help with your instruction of the SPIRALS Curriculum! Along with the possibility of onsite training visits, registered mentors involved in the SPIRALS program will have access through the eSPIRALS platform to a "mentor training" page with tutorial videos and webinar links to help them get started and progress through the curriculum. Specialists in fields related to sustainability science will be available to answer mentors’ questions and to help brainstorm ways to generate engagement in learning activities. The SPIRALS curriculum was designed to connect to the Next Generation Science Standards and the New Hampshire State standards. If at any point you have questions feel free to contact the SPIRALS team for assistance.

How do I use the Spirals Curriculum?

Three Main Parts

Through the SPIRALS activities, mentors will guide learners in selecting a community practice that the learners are curious about and believe is sustainable. The 9 units of the curriculum can be divided into 3 parts: the first part centers on introducing the concepts of sustainability and community, the second part focuses on learners’ researching a sustainable practice, and the third part emphasizes telling a story about the sustainable practice the learners researched.

1. Sustainability and Community

Spirals 1-3 combine an exploration of personal and community sustainability. During these first spiral units the learners begin to think about what sustainability means and are introduced to the four systems conditions of sustainability, which will help guide them in conceptualizing the topic. Additionally, groups will begin to think about community practices that they might like to investigate in more detail.

*For groups with more limited time – Short Program Spirals 3 was created to expedite the coverage of the content from spirals 1-3 so that groups can progress more quickly towards their investigation of a sustainable practice in spiral 4.

2. Investigation of a Sustainable Practice

During spirals 4-7, groups will select a community practice that they feel is sustainable and feasible to study. Groups will create maps detailing everything they already know about the practice as a system of interrelated parts. As part of this process, learners will reflect on identifying the sources of their knowledge about their selected practice. Next, they will create a plan to collect more information about their practice. Once they have collected some data, they will carefully re-evaluate the practice by using their definition of sustainability and the four systems conditions of sustainability. To help learners appreciate and recall what they have learned, they will create a second map of their practice as a system of interrelated parts to display the ways in which they feel their chosen practice is sustainable.

3. Telling a Story

In spirals 8 and 9, the learners will create a digital project and then share what they discovered about their sustainable practice in the form of a story with members of the local community (e.g. school, community center, library). In addition, groups will be invited to share their stories with family, friends and university scholars at a UNH-sponsored conference specifically for the participants in the SPIRALS program.