Activity Plan for Our Natural World
Understanding Outdoor Ethics
This activity will take approximately 45 minutes.
What Your Group Will Learn
This activity plan will help foster understanding of outdoor ethics. After
participating in this activity plan, which will set the stage for learning
outdoor ethics, group members will be able to
- Describe simple connections between the plants and animals of an
- Predict changes to an ecosystem that have been caused by human behavior.
- Tell how to choose behaviors that help protect natural resources.
Group members will play a game that will help them make connections to the
natural world and understand how their behaviors can affect nature. Using a ball
of string and cards that represent plants and animals, group members will
construct a "web" of connections between all living things.
- Cards approximately 3" x 5" (number of cards
to be determined by group size)
- Hole punch
- Approximately 4 feet of yarn per
- 100 feet of thick string
- Paper and pencil for each person
pictures, or words to represent sun, clean water, clean soil, and air
- A copy of
instructions and scenario cards
- Read this entire activity plan and
thoroughly review the Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace.
- Roll the
100 feet of string into a ball.
- Prepare the alpine ecosystem cards as
- Print the "Scenario Card" at the end of this
activity plan, laminate (optional), and cut along dotted lines. Have scenario
cards available for use by leader or by individuals.
Grabbing Your Group's Attention (5 minutes)
Before people can choose to Leave No Trace in the
backcountry, they often need to adopt reasons for caring for our natural world.
This activity plan will help participants identify some of those reasons. Ask
participants to name some of the plants and animals they might find in
backcountry or wilderness areas.
Steps for Teaching the Activity (20 minutes)
Equate! Relate!—A Game of Connections
This game demonstrates the connection or
links between plants and animals in an alpine setting and will help participants
predict the effects human impacts have on those plants and animals of this
Read and explain the "Equate! Relate!" game instructions
below to the group, then play the game. The purpose of this game is to
connections among plants and animals of an ecosystem.
- Describe how human
behavior can affect ecosystems.
Participants should assume the role of the plant
or animal listed on their alpine ecosystem card.
Prepare the Alpine Ecosystem Cards
Write the names of the 19 plants and animals listed in the column to the
left on the 3" x 5" cards, one name to a card. Punch several holes in
each card and attach yarn long enough to loop the card over the participant's
shoulders. Give the ball of string to one group member and explain to group
members that they are going to play a game called "Equate! Relate!"
Distribute all of the cards. If your group has fewer than 19 participants, some
group members will have two cards. If your group is larger than 19 you will need
to add plants and animals to the ecosystem. Some ideas include: berry, bear,
coyote, hummingbird, grub worm.
Have each group member, including the leader,
loop a card over the shoulders. In the middle of the room place the symbols,
pictures, or words that represent the sun, water, soil, and air. Gather the
group in a circle around these objects.
Making Connections—A Ball of String
person holding the ball of string assumes the role of the plant or animal on his
or her card and looks around the circle to find one other plant or animal that
the holder's plant or animal needs or that needs it to survive. This person
describes the connection out loud, holds a section of the string with one hand,
and throws the ball with the other hand to that plant or animal. For example,
the woodpecker has the ball of string, holds the end of the string, and throws
it to the oak saying, "I need the oak to provide insects to eat." The
oak catches the ball, hangs on to the string, and throws the ball of string to
the ant saying, "The ant needs me to find food." The ant catches the
ball of string, hangs on to the string, and throws the ball to the downed log
saying, "I need the downed log for a home."
Play goes around the
circle until everyone is holding a section of the string. At no point should
anyone let go of the string. In some cases animals and plants will have received
the ball of string more than once and therefore will hold more than one section
Familiarity with the Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace
will now help the leader guide a discussion. Have group members observe the web
of connections they have made. Discuss what the web demonstrates about
connections in an ecosystem, including the human connection.
animals, and humans owe their existence to one another. Insects pollinate plants
and provide food for small animals; plants provide food and shelter for both
animals and humans. Plants also help filter water that is then stored in
mountains, streams, lakes, and aquifers. When one member of the web of life has
been altered or is eliminated, other living things are invariably affected. See
the Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace for more about the web of
Have each group member think about one item from the middle of the room—sun, water, soil,
air—and then describe one connection he or she has to
this resource. For example, the frog might say, "I need the water in which
to lay my eggs."
Scenario Cards—Human Impacts on Ecosystems
leader, one other person, or four individuals read one "Equate!
Relate!" scenario card at a time to the group. Have the group discuss the
question at the end of each scenario. As you discuss each scenario, have
participants drop their string to show how an impact to one part of the web
affects another part. For example, if campers pick all the wildflowers in an
area, what else will disappear? Mice? Coyotes? Those holding the mouse or coyote
card would drop their sections of string.
|Note: This game can be played using plants
and animals from specific ecosystems such as a desert, subtropical area,
or river corridor. Cards and scenarios should be created accordingly.
Wrapping Up the Activity (15 minutes)
Tell your campers they are great problem solvers. They know how to have fun in
the outdoors while respecting the importance of all living things. How well has
each person learned to protect natural resources?
- While still in a circle, have
participants summarize what they have learned from "Equate! Relate!"
- Have participants tell one new behavior they will practice the next time they
camp or hike.
- Have participants explain how their new behavior will support the
natural resources (plants, animals, soil, water).
Congratulations on conducting a well-prepared meeting for your group!