Map It

Spend time exploring the idea of mapping in one block beyond school grounds. Begin by creating quadrants around the school for different groups of students—as a final activity, maps of each quadrant can be layered and combined.

  • In pairs ask students to explore the assigned area and record on a map what they see. When they come back, have them compare what made it on their map with what other pairs recorded. Have the students discuss what features matter (i.e. important buildings, unique trees, and so on) and, thus, were mapped. What was left off both maps?
  • There are many variations to this activity. For example, students can discuss the visibility of their map (what perspective does it represent? How might a different being see the same area? Students could be asked to map a smaller area [e.g. small patch of the schoolyard] from the perspective of a snail or other small creature.  What makes it on the map?). They could also map sounds, or, with some research, map what is underground (What can’t we physically see beneath our feet?).

Imaginative Play

Give students a challenge that mobilizes the imagination.  For example, students can be asked to do the following:

  • Draw a house that combines nature with humans, animals with people.
  • Design a city in which no motorized vehicles would be needed.
  • Create a table with three columns—obsolete technology/current technology/future technology.  What has come and gone? What has yet to come?  What will this technology do for us?  How will it change us?

Body Talk

Give students a word or concept of the day that evokes some ecological issue, concept, or idea (e.g. carrying capacity, eco-economics, climate, deforestation/reforestation, symbiosis, sustainability, predator, interdependence, biome, or habitat). Challenge students to explore the topic in four ways:

a.) Identify a gesture that evokes the idea. Students should also explain the significance of the gesture to the class.

b.) Create a metaphor that explains the meaning of the concept.

c.) Research the latest news articles about the topic. What are people saying?

d.) Identify two things we do not know about the topic. Ask two questions.


Bio-mimicry refers to the application of processes/cycles/systems in the natural world (what some call “natural technologies”) to understanding/expanding or developing different human-made technologies. The aim is to learn from nature and use this knowledge to improve something human-made. Enlist students as engineers.  Challenge them to apply one of the following ecological concepts to house design, energy use, city planning, waste management, food production or some other system currently in place:  homeostasis, self-regulation, autopoesis, patterns, osmosis.

Game Play

In this activity, older students will create a game that exemplifies an ecological concept. With the help of you, the teacher, these older students can pair up with younger students (perhaps at a local elementary school) and teach the concept through game play.

  • Connect the game and ecological concept to the local place by requiring the game to include some feature of the local natural or cultural context. Older students can also be challenged to somehow evoke the body in the game play—how can students’ emotions and feelings be engaged as they play the game and learn about the concept?