Reader's Digest World Presents The Living Edens Bhutan: The Last Shangri-La
Teaching Bhutan

Bhutan, the Last Shangri-La:
Is There An Eden?

Lesson Objectives
Relevant National Standards
Materials Needed
Estimated Time
Teaching Strategy
Assessment Recommendations

Lesson Objectives

Students will:

  • Contribute to a class list of words that describe Eden, paradise, and Shangri-La.
  • Use the Internet to research the meaning of the term Shangri-La.
  • Contribute to a class list of places in the world that students consider to have the qualities of paradise or Eden.
  • Draw pictures of their impressions of Eden.
  • After viewing The Living Edens: Bhutan, the Last Shangri-La, write a paragraph explaining whether they think Bhutan is an Eden.
  • Discuss whether they think the video provides adequate information to assess whether Bhutan is truly an Eden.
  • Write questions that they’d like to ask Bhutanese children to determine whether Bhutan lives up to its reputation as an Eden.
  • Use the Internet to research another place that they think might qualify as Eden, and assess whether their impressions of that place change or remain the same after learning about it on the Internet.
  • Write an essay answering the question "Is there really an Eden?"

Relevant National Standards

National Geography Standards

  • Standard 4: The physical and human characteristics of places.

  • Standard 6: How culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions.

Curriculum Standards for Social Studies (National Council for the Social Studies)

III. People, Places, and Environments: Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of people, places, and environments.

IV. Individual Development and Identity: Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of individual development and identity.

Materials Needed

VCR and TV.

Computer with Internet connection.

Blank paper for drawing pictures or posters.

Colored pencils, crayons, or markers.

Estimated Time

6 hours, including viewing the entire video.

Teaching Strategy

Background (Overview)

The Living Edens: Bhutan, the Last Shangri-La portrays Bhutan as a Shangri-La, or a modern-day Eden. This concept is very appealing because we want to believe in a place or a few places that haven’t been "ruined" by people’s actions. The purpose of this lesson is to get students to think about the qualities of an "Eden," as defined both by the video and by their own perceptions of the term, and to consider whether they think there can really be an Eden on Earth. Students will also be encouraged to think about whether their first impressions of a place are always accurate.


What is Eden?

  1. Write on the board the words Eden, Paradise, and Shangri-La. Ask the class to contribute definitions for each of these words, and write their contributions on the board. They should mention any words that come to their minds; the words can be adjectives, place names, or anything they think of. Some ideas might include beautiful scenery, clean air and water, and people and animals getting along harmoniously.

If your students haven’t yet viewed The Living Edens: Bhutan, the Last Shangri-La, inform them that they’ll soon be watching a video that talks about a particular place that is considered an Eden or Shangri-La.

  1. Have students draw pictures or create posters of their ideal places or Edens. Have selected students show their posters to the class and explain what features of the scenes represent paradise to them.
  2. Now ask the class to think about specific places in the world that they think might be considered paradise, Eden, or Shangri-La. Write the places that students mention on the board. On their own paper, students should list the places that they’d like to visit or that they consider to be potential Edens and, next to the place names, should write some adjectives describing the characteristics of these places as far as they know. Later in the lesson, they’ll investigate these places on the Internet to see if they appear to have the Edenic qualities that students initially think they have.

Is Bhutan an Eden?

  1. Show The Living Edens: Bhutan, the Last Shangri-La to the class. As they’re watching, they should think about why Bhutan has been chosen as an "Eden." Ideally, they will consider this question throughout the course of the video. However, if they’ve already seen the video and you’d just like them to review it, show them the following clips:
    • Beginning of video: describes Bhutan as "world’s last Shangri-La"
    • At about 5:35: discusses "man’s search for paradise on Earth" and the Buddhist philosophy about paradise

As students watch the video or the clips, have them write down the words and ideas that describe how the video portrays Bhutan as an Eden.

  1. After viewing the video, have students look back at the first list you made on the board with words describing Eden, paradise, and Shangri-La. Is the list similar to the video’s portrayal of Bhutan? What features does the list have in common with Bhutan in the video? Add a section on the board entitled "Bhutan," and have students contribute their impressions of Bhutan to that part of the board. They should then be able to compare the Bhutan list with their original lists and to ponder the question of whether Bhutan is an Eden by their standards.
  2. Have each student write a paragraph entitled "Is Bhutan an Eden?" Students should back up their answers with arguments about why they feel that, based on what they’ve seen in the video, Bhutan is or is not a paradise or Eden.
  3. Students should now have a clear first impression of Bhutan, but they can’t know everything about a country from a 54 minute video. Ask the class if they think they can learn everything about a country from a video. Where else would they go for information about a country? What would be the best source of information? Ask them to consider what they’d like to ask Bhutanese kids about their country if they had the chance. Do they think that the impressions they’ve gained from the video would remain the same or change after talking to a group of Bhutanese kids? Why or why not?
  4. In pairs or individually, have students write lists of questions that they’d like to ask Bhutanese kids their age about their country and about whether the Bhutanese feel that their land is an Eden. Each student or pair should have at least ten questions. If you’d like them to practice their writing skills further, have them write letters that they’d send to the Bhutanese kids posing the questions they’ve listed.
  5. Have each pair or individual share one question from its list with the class.


Is There An Eden?

  1. Now that they’ve thought about whether Bhutan is an Eden and have considered the ways in which they could gather more information to find out about a place such as Bhutan, have students investigate the places that they listed on the board at the beginning of the lesson to find out whether these places still sound like paradise upon closer inspection. They’ll do this research on the Internet, which will not, of course, give them the full picture of the places but will at the very least provide an idea of what the places look like. Depending on the number of computers available, you may need to have students work in groups or take turns over a period of several days to complete this part of the activity. If they work in groups, have each group find information for at least two places.

Following are three Web sites that serve as directories for information on various countries, regions, and travel destinations around the world:

    • Yahooligans! Around the World:
    • City Net:
    • Lonely Planet:

Have students peruse these sites to locate information on at least one of the places they’ve listed on the board. Since the places on the board represent a class list, have each student or group choose one place that they find particularly intriguing.

  1. Ask each student or group to divide a piece of paper into two columns. The left column should be entitled "The Paradise I’d Like To Visit," and the right column should be entitled "What I’ve Learned About This Place." Then ask students to write the name of the place on the left, along with the words that they initially wrote to describe their ideas about that place (those words may be taken directly from the board). In the right column, students should write the things they see on the Web sites.
  2. Once they’ve completed their Internet research, have students turn their papers over and write a paragraph answering the question "Do you still think this place looks like a paradise or Eden? Why or why not?"
  3. Ask students to answer the question, either on paper or in a class discussion, of whether they think there is any true paradise or Eden. Is there really such a place? Why or why not?

Assessment Recommendations

  • All students should participate in classroom discussions.
  • Students should turn in posters that display thoughtful depictions of their impressions of Eden. The posters should be creative and colorful, following the idea of the painting of the Four Harmonious Friends allegory in the video.
  • The paragraphs describing whether Bhutan is an Eden should be assessed on the basis of how clearly students argue their points. Students should include examples of statements made or scenes shown in the video. You may wish to create a rubric that reflects your specific requirements for this essay, based on your own expectations for your students.
  • The questions to Bhutanese kids should reflect careful consideration of how to best find out more about Bhutan and what it’s like to live in Bhutan. You will therefore want to assess these questions on the basis of their relevance to the topic and on how seriously students take their roles in writing these questions.
  • The charts that students make when researching places on the Internet should contain a specified number of observations, depending on how much time your students have to complete the task and on the ability level of your students. For example, if each group has twenty minutes to find information on the Web, they might be expected to list three observations about each place they view.
  • The final essay should be assessed in much the same way as the paragraphs about Bhutan. Students should use clear examples to make their case and should cite points made in the video as well as statements about their own opinions.


  • Ask students whether their hometown or region is an Eden. They will probably say that it’s not, so they should discuss why. What would they like to change about their home areas? Could their region ever be an Eden, or does Eden only exist in faraway places?
  • Have more advanced students discuss, as a class or in writing, the statement made in the video that traditional Buddhists believe that Shangri-La, or true paradise, does exist but is only available to "the most faithful devotee." What does this mean? Are there places that are true Edens, or does the concept of Eden depend on the observer’s faith or religious attitudes?


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