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Ecosystem Health Activities

Step 1—Maps of Home: Identifying personal connections to place

  • Where does your heart call home? What images and connections give meaning to your exploration of home place?
  • Examples: guided map-making; mind mapping; sense of place journal

Step 2—Maps of Home: Defining a place-based system for classroom study

  • What place do we choose to study together? Where is its center, what are its boundaries?
  • Examples: neighborhood, school grounds, wetland, woodland, watershed, ecosystem

Step 3—Ecosystem Health: Asking inspiring, elegant questions

  • What do we already know? What do we need to find out? What criteria will we use to consider the health of our home place?

Step 4—Ecosystem Health: Applying our criteria

  • How healthy is the system? What might be done to improve its health?
  • Sample activities: exploration, observations, inventory, research, monitoring, public policy

Step 5—Cycles & Seasons: Mapping time and space to communicate & celebrate our place

  • How will we share what we have learned? How will we nurture our sense of place as individuals and as a classroom or community?
  • Example: Watershed Wheel

Bioregional living is an attempt to understand and live sustainably within the natural cycles, flows, and rhythms of a particular place. It means becoming "dwellers in the land," who establish an ecologically and socially sustainable pattern of existence within it by adapting ourselves to a place.

Bioregional living means learning to "live-in-place" in an area that has been injured and disrupted through human exploitation. To do this, we need to be able to answer questions like the following:

  1. What are the natural resources and unique characteristics that define this place? What kinds of soils do we have? How long is our growing season? What plants and animals are characteristic of this place and why?
  2. What was this area like before human impact?
  3. Have people lived sustainably on this land in the past? How?
  4. What have we done to disrupt the natural ecological relationships which have sustained life in this area in the past?
  5. How do we live on the land now? (Where does our water, energy, food, and other materials come from? What kinds of waste do we create, and what happens to it?)
  6. How might we begin to heal the wounds we have inflicted on our bioregion?
(Adapted from G. Tyler Miller, Living in the Environment)

Do You Know Where You Are?
A Bioregional Quiz

  1. Trace the water you drink from precipitation to tap.
  2. Where does the water go that drains from your sink?
  3. From what direction do the winter storms generally come from in this region?
  4. Name five edible plants in this region.
  5. How many days until the next full moon?
  6. Where does our garbage go?
  7. How long is the growing season here?
  8. On what day of the year are the shadows the shortest here?
  9. What species have become extinct in this region?
  10. What was the vegetation type in this area prior to white settlement?
  11. Who lived here prior to white settlement, and what were their primary subsistence techniques?
  12. From where you are now, which direction is north?
  13. Name five resident and five migratory birds in this area.
  14. When was the last time a fire burned the vegetation on this piece of land?
  15. Where is the food you eat grown?
  16. What agencies are responsible for planning future transportation and land use in this area?