Day one: The value of nature

The first lesson on the Outdoor Calendar. This sets up the idea of putting a price on nature. The idea is that we can say a bit of forest is priceless, but that we often have to set a price for it anyway.


The first time we visit this topic. Our goal is to start talking about nature in a more general way, before later discussions get into specific conversations about other things later. No matter how you do this, you want to get back to the topic of the worksheet that will be homework. — So at least read that first.

This lesson plan has alternatives. It ends with two different possible in-class activities, and I’m sorry for that.

The worksheet

The rest of this is just how I teach this. Maybe you just want the worksheet.

  • Here’s the the reading worksheet that we’re building up to, you’ll want to have one printed for each participant.

How I plan the conversation going

Values in general

I start out by asking a general question about the value of something. Something like “Dirk has an iPhone. It costs, what? Eight hundred euros? If I offered him a thousand euros, right now in cash, for his phone, should he accept it? Why or why not”

Then, I move to things that have more sentimental value: it can be houses, or pets (purebreed dogs/horses) or whatever you think your students will refuse to sell. “Why don’t you want to see it? What price would you take? What’s the extra money for?”

The goal is to start naming sentimental values. What price can you put on memories? Or the fact that your children grew up in a house?

The value of nature

Some things have value beyond price. Nature, for example. What do you think is the value of nature? All of nature.

  • In 1997, scientists said here that the world’s ecosystems were worth $33 trillion. That’s $33 with twelve zeros. 33,000,000,000,000.
  • Does that seem fair?
  • What do you think the price is for?

The scientists divided the value of nature into four categories: Habitat Services, Cultural Services, Provisioning Services, Regulating Services. You can cover these any way you’d like: put the words on the board, brainstorm.

The way I cover these is with printed cards. I print out the words and definitions on cards on both sides of a piece of paper and put them on the table, with the grey side up. Then we talk about what the words could mean. Then, I assign a student to turn them over one at a time and read the definition on the back.

We make sure the definition is clear — providing examples — before moving on.

The final activities

The last bit of all this is to go into a classroom discussion about the value of nature. If you have students who are happy talking about abstract things, you might want to consider using the comparison activity. For students at lower levels, or who aren’t comfortable talking about things very abstractly, you might want to use the invoice activity. (The invoice activity is also a better idea if you want to skip the categories of the value of nature. — Just say “the scientists estimated the total value by looking at what alternatives cost for each of the services nature gives us.”)

Hand out the reading

After doing all of that, I usually say “Okay, we talked about some crazy things today. Still, I have an interesting text that is so crazy. It describes some good reasons to enjoy going outside into nature. We will talk about it next week.”

This part is important to me, make sure you tell them something along the lines of: “This text was written by an English teacher. If it’s hard for you to understand the text just say ‘the text is bad,’ not your English.” (And contact me if you find problems with the text.)


2 thoughts on “Day one: The value of nature

  1. Sandra Anderson says:

    Thank you so much for the time, thought, and energy that you put into your lessons…and for sharing them so willingly and generously with others. Sandra


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