Monday, March 1, 2010

8 Weeks Left to Earth Day: Week 9: BIODIVERSITY

                                                                Photo By David Ilif

2010 is the United Nations  Year of Biodiversity – so hopefully the extra publicity will raise the level of awareness about its importance!

Biodiversity is one of those loaded words that somehow never gets the respect it deserves.  I looked up some definitions, and here was my favorite, courtesy of the Environmental Defense Fund 
“Most broadly, biodiversity encompasses the diversity of life on the planet.  Biodiversity includes genetic diversity, the diversity of information encoded in genes within a species; species diversity, the diversity and relative abundance of species; and community/ecosystem diversity, the diversity of natural communities.”

The way I see it, one of the greatest challenges in educating people about the importance of biodiversity is that the majority of us live in urban centers where biological diversity is not so evident; (well not to untrained eyes).  To most, it doesn’t seem to matter that there are fewer species of birds, butterflies, insects or fungi; in fact some might argue that we’re a lot better off without half of them! 

Unfortunately many don’t comprehend that,  “Biodiversity, the variety of life on Earth, is essential to sustaining the living networks and systems that provide us all with health, wealth, food, fuel and the vital services our lives depend on.” UN Website.  Basically, without biodiversity we’re screwed!   All the more reason to educate kids about its importance, so that they become informed citizens who recognize the necessity of protecting and preserving all living systems. 

Lesson Plans

1.  Introduce young children to the concept of biodiversity.  Begin with insects like bees; bees are crucial to biodiversity since they pollinate so many different plants including many of those that produce the foods that we eat.  Share pictures, or better still, some of the foods that are pollinated by bees such as: strawberries, kiwi, cucumber, broccoli, cashews, brazil nuts or carrots; (there are many more!  
Nature's Nature’s Partners, Pollinators, Plants and You  has a whole series of activities about our relationship and dependence upon insects and plants.

2.  Ecosystem Services: A healthy biodiversity provides us with an abundance of services whose value is not always acknowledged.   Invite students to list some of the services that come from a healthy biodiversity.  For example, ecosystem services such as: soil protection and formation; soil doesn't magically appear, it takes a myriad of organisms to break it down and keep it healthy!  Learn about  Soil Basics– how its created, how long that takes!  Explore how healthy water resources rely upon a diversity of species living in them.  Here is a short Video showing how oysters filter water!  Trees and other vegetation help to break down pollution; learn about  The Value of trees.

3.  Biological resources: Invite students to list some of the biological resources that we benefit from when there is a healthy biodiversity?  Some examples would be food; how do we ensure there is enough diversity amongst food sources and protect the integrity of seeds?  Here is Cary Fowler in a TED Talk speaking about the importance of protecting the future of food, one seed at a time!  With young children look at different seeds, gather a whole bunch of them and talk about why its important to have different kinds of seeds for food.  Plant some!

4.  What can we do to protect biodiversity?  One way is to create native plant gardens; this encourages the diversity of insects in your community; choosing plants with a diversity of colors, shapes and sizes helps to ensure they attract different kinds of insects and birds.

"Coral Reefs harbor more than 25 percent of all known fish and provide our oceans with the highest biodiversity of any marine ecosystem (IPCC, 2007).”  Sadly many of the world’s reefs are suffering from Coral Bleaching which is caused by stressful environmental circumstances.  Many scientists and marine biologists are seeking ways in which to help reefs and an effort is underway to create Underwater Marine Parks that would offer them some protection.

Green Action of the Week!
Spring is on the way!  Plan a Butterfly Garden with your kids!  Even if the snow is still on the ground, you can begin by planning the garden out and looking at seed catalogues to choose the right kids of plants not just for butterflies but other Beneficial Insects  too.

Song: I Love Bugs!  by Bobs & Lolo is a fun song to incorporate into lessons on biodiversity; also the Coral Reef Song and We're All Interconnected both fit well.

Story: Ancient Stories, New Voices is a wonderful collection of animated Aboriginal Stories complete with Study Guides.  The Brolga Song and The Be  both relate to the importance of biodiversity. (Roll mouse over the circles at the top of the page to see the names of stories.)

Have a great week exploring Biodiversity!  What an incredible world we live in!  I am continually amazed by it!

In gratitude for life and this Earth!


Photo of Coral Reef from Wikimedia By Richard Ling
Photo of Waterfall by David Ilif

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