Ecosystem Services in Your Community Teaching Box

How is your community impacted by its surrounding ecosystem? Ecosystem services impact a community’s economy, culture, health and wellness. Human activities can alter these services, therefore changing the benefits a community gets from its ecosystem. How can we as humans take care of our ecosystems, while also supplying the resources we need in a safe and healthy manner? Explore ecosystem services with a variety of activities related to the health and sustainability of a community and its surrounding ecosystem.

** A teacher could use this teaching box as a four-week unit on ecosystems. Teachers could also pick and choose specific activities to fit with their own unit on ecosystems. Please note that the extension activities would not be as effective without prior lessons around ecosystem services.

Grade level: 6-12

Lesson Format
This series of activities is a combination of hands-on group work, group discussion, independent reading, direct instruction, data gathering and analyzing, and community applications.

Learning Goals
Big Idea- Ecosystems contain services that nourish and sustain human life.

Key Concepts:
There are four types of ecosystem services: supporting, regulating, provisioning, and cultural.

Ecosystem services impact both local and outside communities by their connections and relationships with other services. Human activities are connected and alter ecosystem services.


Next Generation Science Standards

MS-LS2-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.

MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.

MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.

Colorado State Standards

6.2.1 Changes in environmental conditions can affect the survival of individual organisms, populations, and entire species.

6.2.2 Organisms interact with each other and their environment in various ways that create a flow of energy and cycling of matter in an ecosystem.

6.3.3 Earth’s natural resources provide the foundation for human society’s physical needs. Many natural resources are nonrenewable on human timescales, while others can be renewed or recycled.

8.2.1 Human activities can deliberately or inadvertently alter ecosystems and their resiliency

Earth Science HS.3.5 There are costs, benefits, and consequences of exploration, development, and consumption of renewable and nonrenewable resources

Background information
Ecosystem services are benefits humans receive from their environment. Some of these benefits guarantee our survival, while others have a more intrinsic value. These services are split into four categories.

  • Provisioning– an object or resource that humans can take from the environment. Examples: food, fossil fuels, timber, medicine, drinking water.
  • Regulating– a natural process within an ecosystem that benefits human existence. Examples: water purification, pollination, decomposition, carbon storage.
  • Cultural– a non-material benefit that contributes to an areas culture and experience. Examples: recreation, art, relaxation, national parks, visual display.
  • Supporting– a natural process that supports all other ecosystem services. Examples: water cycle, photosynthesis, soil formation, biomass production.

For more information about ecosystem services, see the following and videos and readings:


Overview: This is a five part classroom activity following the Five “E” format (Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend, and Evaluate) that helps grow student understanding of ecosystem services and how there are valued by communities.

ENGAGE- Silent Debate

EXPLORE- Town Readings with Brochure and Ecosystems Presentation

EXPLAIN- Town Readings with Philosophical Chairs

EXTEND – Community Survey

Alternate EXTEND Activity: Boomtown Monopoly- Have your students simulate the development of a town with oil and gas development and see how choice and chance affect the town over time.

EVALUATION/Assessment- Poster or Public Service Announcement