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Biodiversity Pathway

Biodiversity Icon Biodiversity is the variety of life on our planet. At the highest level, one can look at all the species on the entire planet. On a much smaller scale, one can study biodiversity within a single ecosystem (for example, in a creek, under a log, or in a school garden). Researchers have estimated that there are between 3 and 30 million species on Earth, with a few studies predicting there may be over 100 million species. Currently, scientists have identified 8.7 million species, so the vast majority of species on the planet are not yet known!

A wide diversity of species—animals, plants, and other living things—is the key to a healthy, functioning ecosystem. While there are many species on the planet, they are disappearing at alarming rates. Climate change is one of several causes linked to species decline, specifically due to the increase in average temperatures across the U.S., sea level rise, and rapid precipitation pattern changes. From schoolyard habitats to our own backyard, whether in the United States or around the world, we can work to increase biodiversity.

Students at bonham academy talking about biodiversity

Fast Facts

  • Taxonomists—biologists who specialize in identifying and classifying life on the planet—have named approximately 8.7 million species.
  • The greatest species diversity is found among the invertebrates. Invertebrates are animals without backbones, including insects, crustaceans, sponges, and scorpions, among others. Over half of all the animals already identified are invertebrates. Beetles are some of the most numerous. Tropical ecosystems support higher levels of biodiversity than temperate or boreal ecosystems.
  • Tropical rainforests and coral reefs are the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Between 50 and 90 percent of Earth's plant and animal species are found in tropical regions.
  • Scientists know the least about the diversity of microscopic organisms such as bacteria and protozoa. Microorganisms may be tiny, but they are tremendously important, forming the base of the food chain and playing many roles within ecosystems.
  • Extinction is a natural phenomenon occurring at a rate of about 1 to 5 species per year. But scientists estimate we're now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the rate, with dozens going extinct every day.

Following the Framework

Utilize the Seven Step Framework to complete your pathway.

Step 1: Form an Eco-Action Team

The Eco-Action Team is the driving force behind Eco-Schools USA. Ideally, your Eco-Action Team should be representative of the whole school community—including people beyond the school walls, such as facilities staff, board members, and members of the greater community. Eco-Schools USA has developed a worksheet to help guide the development of this team.

Step 2: Conduct an Environmental Audit

The Environmental Checklist is an essential tool for understanding the current environmental situation in your school. It provides the basis for your Eco-Action Plan. Eco-Schools USA has developed an activity to get your students started.

In addition to the optional Environmental Checklist, pathway-specific audits allow teams to utilize a pathway-specific lens to dive deeper into problems and solutions, and provide the basis for the team’s Eco-Action Plan.

3-5 Conducting a Biodiversity Audit | 3-5 Baseline Audit | 3-5 Post-Action Audit

6-8 Conducting a Biodiversity Audit | 6-8 Baseline Audit | 6-8 Post-Action Audit

9-12 Conducting a Biodiversity Audit | 9-12 Baseline Audit | 9-12 Post-Action Audit


Additional Audit Resources

Step 3: Create an Eco-Action Plan

The action plan follows as the result of analysis and conclusions drawn from the Environmental Audit and sets forth a series of goals, actions, and a timeline for achieving environmental improvements.

To get started, preview the sample action plan for the Biodiversity pathway. This example is designed to be a springboard to developing the team’s own action plan.

Use the blank action plan to develop the team’s vision. 

Sample Action Plan (K-5) | Blank Action Plan (K-5)
Sample Action Plan (6-12) | Blank Action Plan (6-12)

Step 4: Monitor and Evaluate Progress

Monitoring and evaluation are intrinsic elements of the action plan, helping to check progress toward goals, make adjustments for greater success, and validate that actions are making an impact.

Step 5: Link to Existing Curriculum

Enrich your classroom curriculum with Eco-Schools projects and activities.

Step 6: Involve the Community

Communities are made up of diverse perspectives. When students consistently and authentically work to include community members from all walks of life, not just the school community, they are gaining access to dynamic networks whose end goals are the same, making their place in this world happier and healthier.

Step 7: Create an Eco-Code

The Eco-Code is the school’s mission statement and should demonstrate—in a positive, inclusive, and imaginative way—the whole school’s commitment to improving their environmental performance.

Step 1: Form an Eco-Action Team

The Eco-Action Team is the driving force behind Eco-Schools USA. Ideally, your Eco-Action Team should be representative of the whole school community—including people beyond the school walls, such as facilities staff, board members, and members of the greater community. Eco-Schools USA has developed a worksheet to help guide the development of this team.

Step 2: Conduct an Environmental Audit

The Environmental Checklist is an essential tool for understanding the current environmental situation in your school. It provides the basis for your Eco-Action Plan. Eco-Schools USA has developed an activity to get your students started.

In addition to the optional Environmental Checklist, pathway-specific audits allow teams to utilize a pathway-specific lens to dive deeper into problems and solutions, and provide the basis for the team’s Eco-Action Plan.

3-5 Conducting a Biodiversity Audit | 3-5 Baseline Audit | 3-5 Post-Action Audit

6-8 Conducting a Biodiversity Audit | 6-8 Baseline Audit | 6-8 Post-Action Audit

9-12 Conducting a Biodiversity Audit | 9-12 Baseline Audit | 9-12 Post-Action Audit


Additional Audit Resources

Step 3: Create an Eco-Action Plan

The action plan follows as the result of analysis and conclusions drawn from the Environmental Audit and sets forth a series of goals, actions, and a timeline for achieving environmental improvements.

To get started, preview the sample action plan for the Biodiversity pathway. This example is designed to be a springboard to developing the team’s own action plan.

Use the blank action plan to develop the team’s vision. 

Sample Action Plan (K-5) | Blank Action Plan (K-5)
Sample Action Plan (6-12) | Blank Action Plan (6-12)

Step 4: Monitor and Evaluate Progress

Monitoring and evaluation are intrinsic elements of the action plan, helping to check progress toward goals, make adjustments for greater success, and validate that actions are making an impact.

Step 5: Link to Existing Curriculum

Enrich your classroom curriculum with Eco-Schools projects and activities.

Step 6: Involve the Community

Communities are made up of diverse perspectives. When students consistently and authentically work to include community members from all walks of life, not just the school community, they are gaining access to dynamic networks whose end goals are the same, making their place in this world happier and healthier.

Step 7: Create an Eco-Code

The Eco-Code is the school’s mission statement and should demonstrate—in a positive, inclusive, and imaginative way—the whole school’s commitment to improving their environmental performance.

Sustainable Development Goals

goal 4 - quality education
goal 13 - climate action
goal 14 - life below water
goal 15 - life on land
goal 17 - partnerships for the goals

Top 10 Tips to Promote Biodiversity

  • Take regular walks around the school grounds and invite students to identify plant and animal species.
  • Have students keep a nature notebook or a tree journal.
  • Give students free time outdoors to simply explore, relax, and enjoy nature.

  • Identify birds using the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird ID Tool.
  • Identify trees using the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Identification Field Guide.
  • Use eNature’s Zipguide to develop a comprehensive local wildlife guide.
  • Use the American Beauties Plant Search to identify plants native to your region.
  • Use the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder to identify native flora in your region.

  • Avoid using pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
  • Attract birds by installing nesting boxes, bird baths and feeding stations.
  • Put up barriers and establish pathways to prevent people from trampling on and damaging established habitat, as well as to create access for students with disabilities.
  • Choose plants that will attract pollinators and other beneficial insects.

  • Let students take part in the selection, planting, maintenance, and harvest of fruits and vegetables.
  • Show students the value of organic gardening and introduce them to natural pest management systems.

  • Contact your local native plant society or state Department of Natural Resources to find out which plants are invasive in your area.
  • Learn the appropriate way to remove the invasive species you are targeting.
  • Use systemic herbicides carefully as a last resort to remove invasive plants.

  • Schoolyard Habitats help restore habitat that gives local wildlife food, water, cover, and places to raise their offspring.
  • Create a place for interdisciplinary learning and creative instruction.

  • Investigate whether it is possible to remove concrete in certain areas and replace with pollinator or vegetable gardens.
  • Consider using permeable pavers and other hard surfaces that allow for water filtration.
  • Use large planters to add greenery and habitat to hard-surface areas that will remain in place.
  • Use the National Wildlife Federation's Trees for Wildlife program to request native trees and the LEAF pathway [2.1.11] to investigate the ecological, economic, and cultural aspects of forests.

  • Track birds through The Great Backyard Bird Count.
  • Track plants through Project Budburst.
  • Find out if a local environmental organization is running a BioBlitz in your region, or create your own.

  • Avoid runoff by prohibiting the use of pesticides and fertilizer on school grounds.
  • Use native plants and shrubs as buffers near water.
  • Create signs that encourage people not to litter.

  • Ask someone from a local organization (such as a zoo or native plant society) to give a presentation about biodiversity for students.
  • Put up signs highlighting the different types of plants and animals that call your school grounds home.
  • Discuss with students how the ecosystem they live in differs from ecosystems in other parts of the world, and what plants and animals make it unique.
  • Engage the whole community in enhancing biodiversity through the creation of a Community Wildlife Habitat.