Ecosystem services: Nature's gift to us

While nature is valuable for nature’s sake alone, we can also appreciate the valuable services nature provides to humans that allow us to thrive on this planet.

Nature regulates the climate, cleans the water and pollinates the plants. Nature gives humans cultural enrichment, including recreation and peace. Nature does so much for us, making this planet healthy and vibrant for life to thrive; these supports nature gives us are known as ecosystem or nature services. These services (and how their loss could impact humans) have been studied extensively through projects such as the UN-led Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

If nature is harmed, it is not just the environment that is affected. It is an economic issue (think costs to communities from wildfires and flooding); it is a social issue (community displacement from catastrophes or resource extraction); it is a health issue (think the number of medicines created from various plants around the world, or clean water for communities). Habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and bad management continue to threaten our environment and these vital ecosystem services.

It’s important that people understand nature’s services, and it is something we teach to students through Wildsight Education programs. Grade 6/7 students in Windermere Elementary School learned about nature services through Wildsight’s Classroom with Outdoors program this spring. 

Grade 6/7 students create miniature worlds on a Classroom with Outdoors field trip.

Students learn about ecosystem services

“Students learned how the ecosystem is like a human body, with all parts working together to stay alive,” shares Wildsight educator Jessie Caza. “They learned about the 17 essential services provided by nature for free such as sanctuary, water purification, UV protection, temperature control, food production and more!”

Students have fun constructing a structure out of fallen branches during a field trip with Wildsight to the Hoodoos. May 2024.

Jessie brought Kaisha Gretzmacher’s class to the Hoodoos trail in Fairmont for this full-day field trip program. After a brief hike (a thunderstorm near the top sent them racing back to the parking lot), the students were able to do some games and activities to bring the learning home. One activity was creating miniature ‘worlds’; kids used natural items to represent a max of 10 objects they’d bring from earth if they were building a new planet. This activity allowed students to consider what nature services we need to sustain life on Earth. The class learned about the importance of vegetation for the landscape we cherish living in, and even created advertisements for the importance of different elements of the environment.

“The students had a blast using their creativity to create engaging and hilarious advertisements,” recalls Kaisha.

She says this program was not only a lot of fun for the students, but helped encourage a healthy understanding of their local environment.

“I believe that youth need to spend more time outside, learning about where they live and gaining an understanding of the importance of taking care of the place we live,” says Kaisha. “Wildsight does an excellent job teaching the next generation how to be stewards not only in this valley, but also in the greater world!”

Classroom with Outdoors is made possible thanks to the generous support of BC Gaming, Columbia Power, Columbia Valley Community Foundation, Community Foundation of the Kootenay Rockies, Consecon Foundation, Copernicus Education Products, Kimberley Alpine Resort Community Summit Fund, Kootenay Co-op, Osprey Foundation, Province of BC, Regional District of Central Kootenay, Teck Trail, and all our individual donors. Thank you. 

Students collaborate to create advertisements for the importance of different elements of the environment during a Classroom with Outdoors field trip.