Biodiversity matters for each and every one of us. At the most basic level, biodiversity provides the very foundation of Planet Earth's life support system - supporting our basic needs and local economies.
Schools can play a crucial role in promoting and improving the biological potential of their local area. Everyone in the school community will benefit in some way from being involved in this process.
Have a look at our Autumn 2005 newsletter for more information on this topic.
What is biodiversity?
Across the world, most people view the land, air and seas and the living things that inhabit them as resources that should be made use of and/or "tamed". It is only recently that more people have begun to value and celebrate "wilderness" for its own sake.
Biodiversity - or "biological diversity" is the amazing variety of all living things on our planet - from plankton, wildflowers and insects to mammals, reptiles, trees and birds. It also applies to the habitats in which these living things are to be found - oceans, woodlands, meadows and wetlands, as well as man-made places such as fields, parks and canals. Even so-called ‘wasteland’ can be a rich souce of biodiversity.
Why is biodiversity so important?
Biodiversity is essential because it impacts on all of our lives, both directly and indirectly.
All species, including humans, require a range of basic resources to keep them alive and healthy. Humans need oxygen to breathe, water to drink, food to eat and shelter from the weather. The living things on our planet provide many of these things for us, so their conservation is vital if we are to survive.
Preserving Planet Earth's biodiversity is also essential because:
- no-one knows just what other benefits may be lost when species become extinct or what impact this will have on other species or habitats.
- healthy natural ecosystems help control flooding, drought and soil erosion.
- the quality of our lives is greatly enriched by the natural environment
- all species have as much moral right to exist as humans.
Human life itself depends on the relationships between all living creatures and their environment,yet a lot of human activity is having a negative impact on biodiversity across the world. In the UK, the growth of urban development, intensive farming methods, the introduction of non-native species, transport and pollution has lead to huge habitat and species decline and in some cases, extinction. The need to restore this 'balance of nature' has never been so urgent.
What can schools do?
Raise awareness throughout the school
Biodiversity has connections with all the different environmental strands that, drawn together, characterise a healthy and caring Eco School. An Eco School can care for biodiversity in several ways:
- By showing positive attitudes and values for the health and well-being of local habitats, plants and animals, as well as humans.
- By encouraging the use of the outdoors to teach and learn about biodiversity.
- By making choices that affect the use of natural resources.
- By aiming to reduce its global footprint on habitats and species, both locally and globally.
- By taking part in the BBC's Breathing Places programme.
Link biodiversity work to the curriculum
School grounds provide an ideal opportunity to introduce children to the natural environment and biodiversity. They offer a fantastic facility for outdoor education that can complement classroom-based activities. Nature areas within a school's grounds can add greatly to this.
In addition to curricular links, biodiversity work can also offer pupils the opportunity to assist with the provision of reliable, quality data on habitats and species that is crucial to national and local biodiversity action planning.
Has your school had a great idea for encouraging or monitoring biodiversity? If so, why not share it with everyone in our Forum?
Biodiversity - Eco-Schools Objectives and Learning Outcomes
- Raise awareness amongst teachers and pupils of the term "biodiversity" and the level of understanding of its scope (we accept that the term "biodiversity" may not be used explicitly with all learners).
- Communicate the benefits and values associated with biodiversity.
- Communicate the scientific and technical concepts and skills relating to biodiversity.
- Raise the number of local, outdoor experiences involving direct contact with nature and those working to care for it.
- Demonstrate the benefits of integrating biodiversity outcomes into an Eco-Schools' strategy - how it will affect the quality of life of the whole school, and tie in with its other strands eg School Grounds, Health & Well-Being.
- Encourage schools to make choices that improve the biodiversity value of their local surroundings, and that use natural resources in more sustainable ways.
- Encourage schools to make national/international links with other schools to explore the local and global aspects of biodiversity issues and the perspectives of others.
- Through work on biodiversity, pupils should be enabled to:
- Describe carrying out an outdoor site survey/audit, and planning/completing associated practical, local outdoor investigations.
- Describe the importance of biodiversity in their local area and what can be done to improve it.
- Describe the scope of biodiversity in connection with wider/global issues of sustainable development - eg health, consumerism, climate change, genetic modification technology, and the introduction of exotic species.
- Develop enquiry skills and know where to find out more.
- Develop critical thinking and communication skills.
- Make choices and decisions that affect their lives (either as individuals or as part of a wider group) and do something long-term for biodiversity - locally or globally.