Building Resilience at Home
Building Resilience at Home
What does "resilience" mean at the personal, social, and ecological levels?
Lesson Plan: Summary of Activity
After reading "Security, Resilience, and Community" (an excerpt on the Center's website from the preface to David W. Orr's book, Down to the Wire), lead a class discussion about the meaning of "resilience" at the personal, social, and ecological levels. Brainstorm ways to increase the resilience of local communities. You may want just to read the essay yourself for background or ask your students to read it, depending on their cognitive and reading levels. You can find the essay at www.ecoliteracy.org/essays/security-resilience-and-community.
Grade Levels: 9-12
Estimated Time: 1-2 class periods (50-100 minutes)
the concept of resilience by asking students what we mean when we remark that
someone "really bounced back" after a difficult time. Record their
- Write the word "RESILIENCE" on the
board. Share with the class that "resilience" on the personal level is
the capacity for a person to rebound from tough times and come through without
psychological damage. Rather than giving up when faced with a difficult
situation, resilient people face adversity with courage and determination. Sometimes
they are even emotionally stronger than they were before. Ask if they can
describe a time when they or someone they know demonstrated resilience.
can expand the discussion by reading an Aesop's fable, "The Oak Tree and
the Reeds," as an illustration of resilience:
An Oak that grew on the bank of a river was uprooted by a severe gale of wind, and thrown across the stream. It fell among some Reeds growing by the water, and said to them, "How is it that you, who are so frail and slender, have managed to weather the storm, whereas I, with all my strength, have been torn up by the roots and hurled into the river?" "You were stubborn," came the reply, "and fought against the storm, which proved stronger than you: but we bow and yield to every breeze, and thus the gale passed harmlessly over our heads."
See Aesop's Fables >
students to identify the conditions which help build resilience for youth their
age. Record their answers on the board. Ask the class, working together, to
cluster responses that are similar and give each cluster a heading. (For
example, Resiliency In Action identifies broad categories of conditions for
nurturing resilience: caring and support; high expectations for success;
opportunities for meaningful participation; positive bonds; clear and
consistent boundaries; and life skills. Visit Resiliency in Action >)
students that the idea of "resilience" can also apply to large-scale
systems, like ecosystems, as well as to individual people. Ecosystems that are "resilient"
are able to bounce back from a disturbance, like a fire or an oil spill,
although it may take a long time. A resilient ecosystem can tolerate a
disruption and eventually return to a healthy state. David Orr defines
large-scale resilience as "the capacity of the system to 'absorb a
disturbance; to undergo change and still retain essentially the same function,
structure, and feedbacks.'"
students to identify the conditions that affect an ecosystem's resilient (e.g.,
the severity of the disturbance, the ecosystem's biological diversity, its
state of health prior to the disturbance, and palliative measures that are
taken after the disturbance). Record their responses on the board, and cluster
them if there are many responses. (See step 4 above.)
with students that scientists are concerned that widespread changes in climate
threaten the resilience of many ecosystems, which in turn threatens the well-being
of humans. Ask them to think about fertile land areas where we grow food, island
and coastal communities that are vulnerable to rising ocean levels, and the
global increase in extreme weather, and challenge them to make connections
between the loss of resilience at the ecosystem level and the human-community
- Some experts,
like David Orr, are concluding that we can no longer count on
large-scale government to protect us from these threats and that much of the
work must be carried out at local and regional levels. Furthermore, he argues
that society as a whole will be more resilient if we establish decentralized
systems for provisioning ourselves (e.g., local food systems, energy systems,
communication system, etc.). A regionalized system would be better able to
bounce back from a severe disturbance in one place, such as a drought or an oil
shortage. It would also be easier to repair, support the local economy, and reduce
carbon emissions. Working in pairs, have students generate a chart that
identifies potential positive and negative consequences of building decentralized
- Ask students to brainstorm a list of ways they could collectively take action to secure local access to things that we in the U.S. consider to be our basic human rights: food, clean water, health, energy, shelter, and productive work. Use the list to formulate an action plan with students, with them taking the lead to make their community more secure.