“The atmosphere, the earth, the water and the water cycle – those things are good gifts. The ecosystems, the ecosphere, those are good gifts. We have to regard them as gifts because we couldn’t make them. We have to regard them as good gifts because we couldn’t live without them.” – Wendell Berry, environmental activist, novelist, poet and farmer.

How can you share the gifts that nature brings to students in urban areas?

Gratitude is an important lesson to learn through nature, and one that teachers can support with lessons surrounding the interconnectedness of the natural environment and the human environment.    Health of local environments, like gardens, watersheds or forests, are good starting points when approached from the standpoint of how we are interdependent with all other living systems.  For  instance, we rely on healthy clean air, which is provided by photosynthesis in plants and trees.  Ecosystem services, like absorbing water from a heavy rain, providing cooling shade  and buffering sound and pollution are other areas where humans are dependent on the forest ecosystem within our own towns, not to mention the joy and beauty they provide.

A few resources to consider when thinking about understanding our ecosystems services:

  • i-Tree Design – With inputs of location, species, tree size, and condition, users will receive an understanding of tree benefits related to greenhouse gas mitigation, air quality improvements, and stormwater interception.
  • Rain Garden Calculator – Use this tool to figure out how much water your rain garden can purify based on the runnoff from impervious surfaces, slopes and other factors.