This article describes an interpretive study that evaluated a new subject in teacher education called 'Education for Sustainable Development'. The study evaluated the subject for its ability to prepare pre-service teachers for their roles as environmental educators. We used perspectives in place-based pedagogy and critical thinking to underpin the subject design and our analysis. Data sources include instructor journals, planning documents, interviews with students and student thinking books. Interpretive analysis of the data corpus was a collaborative process that involved both subject instructors and students who took the subject. Themes that emerged from the research were centred around: (1) how the students built connections between primary school education and environmental education; (2) how students developed action competence through the activities in the subject; (3) how students were challenged to think differently about themselves as educators; and, (4) how the subject design presented its own challenges for both instructors and students.