This lesson guides high school students to identify sustainability challenges facing cities, discover the ecosystem services, and propose an urban design project that incorporates nature-based solutions.

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This set of activities introduces students to sustainability in the urban context. They will describe their vision of a sustainable city, identify the challenges facing cities, and discover the ecosystem services provided by nature. Sustainable cities are much more than places where humans and nature coexist productively: they are cities in which all people—regardless of race, color, income, and so on—have equal access to a healthy environment in which they can flourish. In designing sustainable cities, planners must incorporate environmental justice ideals, and more broadly, social justice. The lesson guides students into taking an active role in their cities by using technology to map their communities and plan, design, and propose an urban design project that incorporates nature-based solutions.

A related resource, Sustainable Urban Design: Educator’s Toolkit for Project-Based Learning, provides tools teachers need to plan and complete on-the-ground projects to create more sustainable urban areas. Projects can run from simple gardens to more complex green infrastructure, and use natural systems as models.

This lesson plan meets these Next Generation Science Standards: ESS3.C Human Impacts on Earth Systems; ETS1.A Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems; ETS1.B Developing Possible Solutions; LS2.C Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience; and LS4.D Biodiversity and Humans.

This lesson meets these Common Core Standards – ELA Science and Technical Subjects: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.1; CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.2; CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.1; CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.2.

The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Works Everywhere website is fill with dozens of additional resources including information about different ecosystems, connecting to nature, the relationship of native peoples’ to the land and nature, interviews with scientists, and project-based activities.

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