Related National Standards
Grade level: 5-10
Estimated time: One class period for identification and comparison of rainforest products used by students; two to three additional class periods for research.
The rainforests of the world are a tremendous resource for many of the world's people, including Americans. Many of the things we buy at the store and use every day like fruits, vegetables, ingredients for medicines, and construction materials come from the rainforest. And scientists believe that's just the tip of the iceberg: there are many species of plants and animals in the rainforest that haven't even been discovered yet! Rainforests are disappearing at the rate of 3,800 acres a day, largely because some of the things that come from the rainforest (like lumber, oil, and gold) aren't sustainably harvested. Human and animal generations will not be able to benefit from the rainforest's future resources if this continues.
- Students will identify products made with materials that originate in the world's rainforests.
- Students will identify the rainforest products they have used and choose which 5 products are the most important to them.
- Students will work with a partner to compare and contrast their choices. (THINK, PAIR, SHARE: Cooperative learning construct)
- Students will choose 2-3 of their most important rainforest products and do research to evaluate whether or not their products have been harvested in a sustainable manner from the Amazon.
- Copies of "Products from the Rainforest" handout [this is a downloadable document in Microsoft Word format]
- Handful of Brazil nuts
- Colored push pins for locating and marking several of the world's rainforests
- World map in the classroom
- Distribute several handfuls of nuts around the classroom. Ask students if they know where "nuts" come from. (Do they grow underground, on trees, in the water, etc?) Have they ever seen or tasted this particular nut? Inform students that this nut is called a Brazil nut. Ask students to listen for the mention of the Brazil nut, and play the video clip. After video, compare student responses about the growth and origin of this type of nut.
Episode Two ("Life On Land") 27:22: This segment highlights the Brazil nut tree. It drops its product on the forest floor and small rodents runs away with the nuts. The nut is a rainforest product that benefits both humans and other animals.
- Explain that the Brazil nut is one of many products that come directly from the rainforests of the world, like the one shown in the video in the South American Amazon region. Point out on map if desired.
- Ask for some student volunteers. Have them each look on the classroom map to identify and locate other significant world rainforests. If they need help identifying rainforests in other areas of the world, they might visit the Rainforest Action Network site at http://www.ran.org/ran/info_center/factsheets/k1.html. A Fact Sheet at this site will inform students that tropical rainforests are located around the equator, from the Tropic of Cancer in the north, to the Tropic of Capricorn in the south. The largest rainforests are in Brazil (South America), Zaire (Africa) and Indonesia (islands found near the Indian Ocean). Other tropical rainforests lie in Southeast Asia, Hawaii and the Caribbean Islands. The Amazon rainforest in South America is the world's largest, covering an area about two-thirds the size of the continental United States.
- Pass out the "Products from the Rainforest" sheet. Go over the contents. Instruct students to go through the list , marking which products they have used at least once in their lives.
- Then, direct students to identify the five products that are most important to them. (THINK)
- Have students work in pairs (PAIR) to compare and contrast their choices. Which are the same, which are different? (SHARE).
- Explain to students that using materials that are from the rainforest is not necessarily a bad thing. The most important thing is the manner in which humans harvest products from the rainforest. Use "oranges" as an example. The teacher can share this excerpt from the Rainforest Action Network site at http://www.ran.org/ran/info_center/factsheets/k4.html:
Eating foods that come from the rainforest is not always good. For instance, in order to make enough orange juice for everyone, some orange juice companies destroy rainforest land to plant orange groves. One thing we can do to help save the rainforests is to drink orange juice made only from oranges that are grown in the United States. Orange juice containers will say where their oranges are grown. Oftentimes it will say that the oranges are from Brazil, which means they were grown on cleared rainforest land. If that's the case, try to find another brand of orange juice to buy.
- Ask students to work with their partner to define the word "sustainable." Then have them share and introduce the concept of sustainable agriculture, which means that a product can be harvested in a way that will not damage productivity of the rainforest for future generations. Ask the students to talk to their partner about whether growing oranges on rainforest land is an example of sustainable agriculture. Why or why not?
- For homework, ask students narrow their list even further to 2 or 3 of the products that they chose as being most important to them. Ask them to research those products to find out 1) if their product is harvested from the Amazon, 2) if it is done in a sustainable manner, and 3) if not, how they could change their shopping behavior in favor of a product that is made in a sustainable way.
These sites may be helpful to them in their research (as well as using search engines like Infoseek, Lycos, or Yahoo:
Have students document their research and write it up in one or two paragraphs.
- Ask one or two students to share their products and research with the class.
- For older students, ask them to choose one of their 5 products and (in addition to doing the sustainable harvesting research) identify one place where they buy it. Call. write a letter, or surf the Internet site of the retailer to find out where the raw materials for the product originated. For example, if they chose chewing gum, write a letter or call the manufacturer of the gum to find out where the chicle came from in order to make the gum. If the raw materials are not harvested in a sustainable manner, find the same product in a different brand name.
Students can be evaluated on their ability to recall at least 5 products whose raw materials originate in the rain forest, or on the quality of their paragraph writing and research.
Related National Standards
This lesson addresses the following national content standards found at http://www.mcrel.org:
- Understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface
- Understands how human actions modify the physical environment
- Understands global development and environmental issues