Title:  Ecotourism: A Case Study Of Costa Rica

Grade Level:  9-11

Subject and California State Standards met: Environmental Studies, Economics

Overview:  Students will use Costa Rica as a case study to investigate the current economic and environmental issues surrounding ecotourism.  

Purpose:  To familiarize students with current issues and debates concerning ecotourism.



  1. Introduction readings
  2. Student readings: Economic Costs, Economic Benefits, Environmental Costs, Environmental Benefits
  3. Conclusion reading for teachers only
  4. http://www.american.edu/TED/costa-rica-tourism.htm

Activities and Procedures:  

  1. Introduce the topic with questions.  What is ecotourism?  Introduce the accepted definition from the Introduction reading.  Write the definition on the board for reference. What countries do you think of when I say the word ecotourism?  Costa Rica is one of the leading countries in ecotourism so we will use it as a case study for learning about some of the issues around ecotourism.  What are some of the issues or debates around ecotourism?
  2. Pass out the introduction readings and select a student to read the first paragraph aloud.  Tell them that this lesson will focus on the economic and environmental loss and gains of ecotourism in Costa Rica.
  3. Explain that each students will be given a reading (see Resources/Materials) on either economic or environmental benefits or losses of ecotourism.  They should read the information including the rest of the introduction page and prepare arguments for their side.  These arguments can be in the form of written notes or highlighting their handout with notes on the side.  
  4. Lead the class in a discussion / debate about the costs and benefits of ecotourism in Costa Rica.  Make sure all 4 points of view are included.
  5. After the discussion have the students journal about whether or not Costa Rica is on the right track with it's current ecotourism policies.  Collect the journal writings or lead a brief wrap-up discussion.  You can use the conclusion section provided or leave the topic open ended.

Tying It Together:   Follow this lesson with writing or journaling for homework answering the following questions.  Is pure ecotourism possible?  Define the ideal touristic.  Do they exist?  Describe the ideal ecotourism lodge.  Could it exist in the world at this time?  If not, what would need to change to enable it to exist?