How to Use This Curriculum  

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community”  

-Aldo Leopold, 1949


     This curriculum fits into any high school or middle school biology, geography, environmental science, or earth science course. The curriculum was initiated to address an urgent need for education in the field of conservation biology.  This project is designed to teach concepts of biodiversity conservation to students in the 9-county Denver Metro Area (DMA), while satisfying important state geography and science standards. The 9-county DMA includes the following counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, and Gilpin. This curriculum is also a model for other metropolitan areas in Colorado and the U.S. 


     Many conservation biologists may not realize what an important educational role the discipline of geography plays in getting the biodiversity message out.  The curriculum emphasizes three important types of geographies: Hope, Place, and Scale.  The Geography of Hope (a U.S. Nature Conservancy term) indicates that excellent opportunities to maintain natural biodiversity in various parts of the United States still exist but timing is critical.


     The Geography of Place emphasizes that the Denver Metro Area still has a remarkable array of natural biodiversity for people to enjoy, benefit from in additional ways, and bond with.  Achievement of this bonding can be improved with educational and recreational programs in large metropolitan areas like Denver where many young people need more opportunities to experience and learn about nature. 


     The Geography of Scale refers to the many physical scales at which geography concepts can be visualized, investigated and applied. In regard to spatial scales, biodiversity conservation can and should be practiced at the local level with respect to activities such as recycling and energy conservation. However, local efforts alone will not maintain our natural biodiversity. Biodiversity conservation must be planned and executed on the scale of ecoregions. An ecoregion is a large terrestrial ecosystem; for more information see glossary and Figure 1. This is the overarching message of the DMA biodiversity curriculum. For the first time, it will provide DMA students and other citizens with a mapped view of their present conservation area system and suggest ways to strengthen it.


     In regard to temporal scales, the curriculum emphasizes maintenance of DMA biodiversity typical of the last 10,000 years, but prior to the major human development activities of the past 150 years.  This Holocene biodiversity, which greatly aided economic development, continues to provide extremely valuable ecological services (see glossary) for citizens in the DMA.



Many concepts pertinent to biodiversity conservation have strong spatial aspects.  Therefore, they are closely related to the Colorado Geography Content Standards.  Some examples in the curriculum are as follows:


1.      The present 9-county Denver Metro Conservation Area System of forests, parks, refuges, open space, etc. provides important biodiversity conservation for parts of the Central Shortgrass Prairie and Southern Rocky Mountains ecoregions.  Denver is one of the most biologically diverse metropolitan areas in the United States.  It is also the sixth fastest sprawling or “semi-urbanizing” major metropolitan area in the U.S.  Community-based conservation involving landowners, homeowners associations, businesses, local government agencies, and others offers an effective means of helping to maintain natural biodiversity in a rapidly semi-urbanizing area.  Students will see how community-based conservation can be used to influence the size, arrangement, and structure of urban areas (Unit Six).
 2.      One of the most effective ways to conserve both species and ecosystem biodiversity is at the level of ecoregions.  These are relatively large units of land and water with generally similar vegetation, fauna, climate, soils, hydrology, and topography (e.g. the Central Shortgrass Prairie and Colorado Rocky Mountains ecoregions within which the DMA is situated). Ecoregional planning for biodiversity conservation requires the use of biodiversity and socioeconomic databases that are incorporated into geographical information systems (GIS).  This GIS approach uses fundamental cartographic principles to analyze information involving the relationship between the physical and human systems of the DMA (Unit Five and Maps).


Colorado Science Standard 3 on life science ties into all of the lessons.  Some examples of life science concepts from the curriculum are:
1.      The abiotic environment consists of non-living environmental components.  The biotic components of an ecosystem interact with each other (e.g. predator-prey interactions).  The biotic components also interact with the abiotic environment which provides many essentials such as chemical nutrients for microorganisms and plants. In turn, organisms modify the abiotic environment (e.g. conversion of stream to pond habitat by beavers) (Unit One).


2.      Species conservation is an especially important component of biodiversity conservation because species are the biotic components of ecosystems.  Many species are useful to humans because of ecosystem services they help provide free of charge (e.g., decomposition of wastes, and provision of clean air/water and soil fertility/stability) (Units One and Two).



The objectives of this curriculum are:
1) for students to learn what biodiversity is, how much exists in the DMA and elsewhere, its benefits to people, the consequences of its loss, types of societal conflicts and cooperation involved in its maintenance, and how it can be maintained;


2) to strengthen interactions among teachers of geography and science in the 9-county DMA;


3) for students and teachers to use the DMA maps of the conservation area system, ecosystems, rare species/subspecies/ecosystems, and urban and semi-urban development that were compiled by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program as tools for organizing and teaching concepts of biodiversity conservation.


     The curriculum was designed with flexibility in mind.  It can be used as a unit on biodiversity, or in parts fit separately into any science or geography course.  Pick and choose which activities best suit your course.  Some fit better in a science course, while others are better in geography.


     The comprehensive glossary provided with the curriculum is an extension of the text and should be regularly consulted.  Prompts are scattered throughout the text to encourage its use.  Glossary definitions are often provided in a context pertinent to the Denver Metro Area.