Big Ideas

The other day I decided to take a walk through the nearby forest and check out where the trails lead to.  As I was walking I got a Big Idea. I have a passion for teaching people to be ecoliterate so why not turn this walk into a lesson in forest ecology. You may be asking yourself what ecoliteracy is. Basically, it is a big word  which means to be literate in the ecologies. Ecoliteracy is a term coined by David Orr, an American educator and physicist, Fritjof Capra in the 1990s. To be ecoliterate means to be literate in how ecological communities work together to sustain themselves and work together with other ecologies to create an integrated, organized, sustainable community.  Ecoliteracy also means to be able to apply tenants of ecological systems to human society in order to minimize the impacts on the earth and to understand the importance of diversity along with empathy among all living things, including human relationships.  The goal is to use nature’s model to find ways to be gentler on the environment and live in unison with nature’s systems and cycles  without causing irreparable damage. It also means to develop empathy and honour diversity as nature models.

Since completing my research in ecoliteracy, mainly food security and sustainability, I have not had a chance to really take time to develop lessons that I and other teachers can use.  I teach students, family and friends all the time, just  little bits and pieces, but this on this particular day I decided to start the creation of a unit on forest ecology.  My idea was to document a variety of flora and then go home and organize the pictures and create an Inquiry question that would enable students to begin to investigate and create understandings of how a forest functions and sustains itself.  What I thought would be a half an hour walk turned into an hour and a half and culminated with me coming out on a beautiful back road in the city that I did not know existed.

What follows are some of  the pictures and my meandering thoughts about how I could use these pictures to teach others who may not be able to get out into a coastal rain forest, about the unique relationships  that allow nature to sustain itself.  I can see this fitting into a variety of grade levels and curriculums.  I’ll see what I come up with.

NOTE: this is just a snippet of a unit.

Big Ideas: How can we understand connections and systems by looking at a forest? What are some of the relationships seen? How can you equate or use the relationships you observe in the forest  to human relationships.  Give examples of human  to human relationships and human to nature relationships that model something you noticed from the forest.

The video link at the bottom of the page could be used to Segway into a class discussion as well as the following activities.      


Choose one of the following:


Look at the pictures below and write one paragraph of what you see in the pictures.  Use language that describes the colors, textures, shapes, depth, layers and anything else you notice.

Try to imagine the sounds you might hear in this forest.  Write a paragraph that describes what this forest might sound like if you were standing very still in it.

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Can you name any of the things you see in the pictures?  List them.

What colour seems to dominate all of the pictures?  Using your knowledge of plants cells, adaptations and relationships in nature to explain why you think the colour you chose tends to be so prominent.

Have you seen any of these plants in nature?  Where were they?

Look at the pictures below.  All of these plants are……?

Is there anything they all have in common?

What differences do you see in them.  Record you observations in a chart with the labels, size, shape, colour, detail.

What do you think the purpose of these plants is in the forest?  Research that question and record what you find.

IMG_0526  IMG_0505  IMG_0520

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This is a nurse log.  What is a nurse log and why is it important in the forest?  Can you think of any ways that humans interfere with the importance of a nurse log? Explain.


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