Rainforest Unit
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The political debate is a False Debate- the Debate is not between more or less government spending; between Medicare and Social Security- the debate should be about the real prospect that in 50 years there may not be any debate- mankind may drive itself and all other plant and animal species on the Earth to extinction while in the process of fueling its incessant greed and stupidity.


"Rain forests cover less than two percent of the Earth's surface, yet they are home to some 50 to 70 percent of all life forms on our planet. The rain forests are quite simply, the richest, oldest, most productive and most complex ecosystems on Earth"

This Unit Lesson is inspired by the following facts :  

bullet Brazil contains 30% of the world's tropical forests
bullet 5.4 million acres (estimate averaged for period 1979-1990) of Brazilian rainforest are destroyed each year.
bullet If deforestation continues at current rates, scientists estimate nearly 80-90 percent of tropical rainforest ecosystems will be destroyed by the year 2020.
bullet According to projections by James Alcock, a professor of environmental sciences at the Abington campus of Penn State, Amazonian rain forests could reach a "point of no return" by 2011-2016 if deforestation continues at the present rate of about one percent a year. The model further shows that rain forest in Brazil could be wiped out entirely within 40 to 50 years., Amazonian rain forests could reach a "point of no return" by 2011-2016 if deforestation continues at the present rate of about one percent a year. The model further shows that rain forest in Brazil could be wiped out entirely within 40 to 50 years.
bullet Forest destruction from 1995 to 2000 averaged almost two million hectares a year, equivalent to seven football field a minute, and is comparable to the 1970s and 1980s, when forest loss in the Amazon was catastrophic. See: "Smithsonian Researchers Show Amazonian Deforestation Accelerating."
bullet 6-9 million indigenous people inhabited the Brazilian rainforest in 1500. In 1992, less than 200,000 remain.
bullet In a four mile by four mile square of Brazilian tropical forest there are over 750 species of trees, 125 species of mammals, 400 species of birds and 100 species of reptiles. Most of these species are found nowhere else in the world. There are as many species of ants in a single Peruvian tree than in the entire British Isles (43).
bullet Distinguished scientists estimate an average of 137 species of life forms are driven into extinction every day, or 50,000 each year.
bullet Projected Economic Value of One Hectare in the Peruvian Amazon: $6,820 per year if intact forest is sustainably harvested for fruits, latex, and timber; $1,000 if clear-cut for commercial timber (not sustainably harvested); or $148 if used as cattle pasture. One can therefore see the unnecessary and tragic implications of deforestation to the effected nations.
bullet "A $40 billion onslaught of highways, railroads, hydroelectric projects and burgeoning population is overwhelming current efforts to promote conservation in the Amazon Forest of Brazil. If left unchecked, it will soon destroy the greatest tropical rainforest on Earth." - From a 1/24/01 Oregon State University news release/report published in Science Daily entitled, entitled, "Conservation Battle Faces Long Odds In Brazilian Amazon." 
bullet The World Wide Web is or will become the greatest vehicle in the history of mankind for planetary sharing of information and mobilization for trans-border planetary renewal and change.

"While you were reading the above statistics, approximately 150 acres of rainforest were destroyed. Within the next hour approximately six species will become extinct. While extinction is a natural process, the alarming rate of extinction today, comparable only to the extinction of the dinosaurs, is specifically human-induced and unprecedented. Experts agree that the number-one cause of extinction is habitat destruction. Quite simply, when habitat is reduced, species disappear. In the rainforests, logging, cattle ranching, mining, oil extraction, hydroelectric dams and subsistence farming are the leading causes of habitat destruction. Indirectly, the leading threats to rainforest ecosystems are unbridled development, funded by international aid-lending institutions such as the World Bank, and the voracious consumer appetites of industrialized nations. If deforestation continues at current rates, scientists estimate nearly 80-90 percent of tropical rainforest ecosystems will be destroyed by the year 2020."

Recognizing the significance of the above, the unit will focus, though not exclusively, on the deforestation and destruction of the Amazon rain forest. As Roger D. Stone noted in "Dreams of Amazonia,"

"If the Amazon forest disappears, it is likely that all other tropical forests of the planet will have preceded it over the horizon. If any tropical forest in the world is redeemable, on the other hand, it is the Amazonian forest- the world's largest and least ravaged and most important."

Focus on one tropical rainforest will also allow greater depth of coverage. The skills and knowledge used to understand Amazonia can be used to understand other tropical and non-tropical rain forests. Further, there are remarkable similarities in the political, social and economic debates surrounding rainforest use, whether one is discussing North America’s old growth forests or the tropical rainforests of Brazil and Peru.

The ecological issues effecting the Amazon are planetary in scope (species that are forever lost from the face of the Earth, forest destruction, the Greenhouse problem, loss of water sheds, destruction of farm land and top soil, destruction of ancient cultures and loss of nature’s pharmacopoeia). Hence, there is no better tool to learn, share information and organize than the Internet. Therefore, in the social democratic context of learning, sharing and taking action, basic Internet browsing and hypertext skills will be taught. The teacher, at least for this unit, will serve as Web Site editor/moderator and will maintain a table of contents/site index and regulate addition of new pages. Eventually projects and questions (see below) might be added from students or concerned individuals throughout the world. The web site itself may become part of a larger school-wide project or national effort linked to a museum or archive. The site itself may at some point require a full time webmaster managing projects, finding resources, and creating archive pages which link resources and analyze them. Effective use of the Internet as a research tool will be evidenced in the students work (hypertext essays, group presentations, resource lists and critiques, etc.) and will be an important part of the rubric. Finally, the teachers primary role will be as a facilitator and evaluator of students.

This powerful Unit Lesson Plan will encompass multiple strands from the California K-12 History-Social Science Framework, including: Basic (and Advanced) Study Skills, Critical Thinking Skills, Participation Skills, Cultural Literacy, Ethical Literacy, Historical Literacy, Geographic Literacy, Sociopolitical literacy, etc. It is also consistent with the English-Language Arts Framework, incorporating meaningful reading activities, involves use of listening, speaking, reading and writing skills, encouraging daily writing, use of spelling and grammar conventions and portfolio collection. The Unit is reconstructionist in emphasis, culminating in lessons that ask students to consider ways they can make a difference either by changing their lifestyle or organizing, writing, etc. The entire project will be shared by the entire world and will solicit world-wide feedback, hence helping to transform world consciousness. The unit lesson plan is constructivist in nature, encouraging students to construct their own meaning and take responsibility for what they produce, since everything they produce will be available for millions of people to read and comment on. The unit is integrated, content based and sequentially organized. It uses varied teaching strategies and is highly relevant to functioning in modern society. It takes advantages of the bilingual skills of students and encourages bilingual students to use their bilingual reading and writing skills to contribute to the overall effort. All students, regardless of English proficiency will be encouraged to make contributions. The World Wide Web is international in scope and there is a diversity of resources the students can utilize from countries throughout the world.

Lessons 5 and 7 begin to discuss issues concerning the indigenous rainforest peoples and addresses the multiplicity of ethnic and cultural groups from rubber tappers to Yagua Indians in the context of the struggle over land and preservation of the rainforests. Lessons 10,11 and 12 take on a strong reconstructionist bent, culminating in Lesson 12 asking the students to organize as a class or school for real action.


The lessons will be sequenced as follows:

bullet Lesson 1- Introduction to the Internet and Browsing on the World Wide Web and Unit Overview. All children will have access to a PC (a minimum of one PC to 5 kids) with Internet connection and browser software such as Netscape 3.0 or Internet Explorer 3.0 loaded. Internet Explorer also has versions in Spanish and other foreign languages that bilingual student’s may find helpful. Students will be taught how to "Walk the Web" (See Exhibits 7, "Walking the Web: A Short Course in Getting Around"). They will have assigned e-mail addresses and will be asked to compose a brief e-mail message and verify it was received by the intended recipient. Ideally the school will have a local Internet server and student’s will have unlimited outside access to the Internet (subject to certain limits/parental restrictions). In schools were these conditions are not met, the lesson plans will need to be adapted to include other forms of research, publishing and ways of sharing of information with others in the world. Note: Successful completion of this and the next lesson assumes a minimal level of computer competency such as a basic knowledge of computer hardware and software terminology, ability to use a mouse, familiarity with menus, toolbars, minimize and maximize screen functions, "open" a file, "close a file", copy and paste commands and word processing. If this basic competency does not exist, then lessons will be planned to address areas where knowledge is lacking. Computer literacy is critical to success in the next century- a child must start sometime and somewhere and if not now…then when, if not here then where???
bullet Lesson 2- Introduction to Microsoft FrontPage as a Web Authoring Tool. FrontPage will be loaded on all classroom PCs. The students will be instructed on how to compose a simple hypertext page, insert graphic images and how to post this page to the classes’ Internet site. FrontPage is a GUI/ HTML editor that only requires that the student’s know how to use a basic word processor and understand the fundamentals of hypertext links. FrontPage has Spanish, French, German and Italian versions as well. For example, the Spanish and English version of Front Page might be utilized by Spanish speaking students. Bilingual students would, for example, be able to compare both versions as an aid in individualized learning since there is a direct one to one correspondence and identical feature set between English and Spanish versions.
bullet Lesson 3 - What is a Rainforest and its Associated Life Zones’ Plant and Animal Life. The students will be asked, working as a group to construct a rainforest model on a classroom bulletin board. A KWL activity will also be planned. Audio Visual: Rainforest Rap. 6 min.
bullet Lesson 4- What are the Locations of the World’s Tropical Rainforests. There will be a flat map of the world that needs to be colored in to identify the world’s rainforest regions and a two part activity sheet that needs to be completed.
bullet Lesson 5- Personalizing the Amazon Rainforest: A Poem from the Perspective of a Rainforest Plant or Animal. This lesson will involve reading aloud "The Great Kapok Tree" by Lynne Cherry. Both the Spanish and English versions will be read aloud in class. The lesson will involve composition of an original essay and poem. The poetry will be published in HTML, the student will add graphics to their hypertext web pages and their web pages will be published on the classes’ web site.
bullet Lesson 6- Flora and fauna of the Amazon Rainforest. Initially the class will brainstorm a working diagram/semantic map after seeing a film on rainforest biodiversity. Groups will be divided up according to the agreed upon major areas of inquiry. The individual groups will survey certain Internet resources and create question pages that address major questions concerning their topic (See Exhibit 3). The students will assemble their own resource lists using the resource list I have provided them to start. They will use Critique Forms (Exhibit 4) to answer a series of questions about their chosen resources (See Exhibit 4A). The students will have access to a Web Page that I created that contains access to widely used search engines and a good starting point of rainforest related sites (See Exhibit 1, the Amazon Rain Forest Navigation Tool). Students will learn to add resource/reference sites to the class master resource/reference list for use by all students (See Exhibit 2, Master List). The students will compose hypertext essays that present answers to the questions and draw out relationships discovered in inquiry (See Exhibit 5). Students can also create "Food for Thought" pages that may contain new questions that can be addressed in the future or by other groups (See Exhibit 6). Spanish speaking students in particular will be a valuable resource for reviewing, analyzing and reporting on resources such as Brazilian/Spanish newspapers, articles, etc. that relate to their topics and questions. They will be asked to share their research with their group and ultimately the entire class. Ultimately, the entire class web site may be offered in both a Spanish and English version, with bilingual students functioning as Spanish/English editors and translators. During the group activities, the teacher will be circulating throughout the room and will be available for any individual or group questions. In addition, the class will be asked to develop a rubric for the remainder of the unit. The rubric will stress Internet research skills, Proficiency in web page design, quality of resources and research, quality of content and research, imagination and creativity and oral presentation skills. Lesson 6 is in effect a "prototype lesson". A similar methodology, with different subject matter content will be used for lessons 7, 8 and 11. Therefore to save time and space, Lessons 7,8 and 11 subject content will be summarized and only unique aspects of these lessons will be covered.
bullet Lesson 7- The Indigenous People of the Amazon Rainforest and the Effect Deforestation and Habitat Destruction has had upon Their Lives. The methodology would be similar to Lesson 6, in addition a Project, entitled, "Trading Day with the Yagua Indians" would be added where students would take roles as tourist or Yagua Indian to experience what it is like. In addition to using the Internet as a resource, the class will have access to a variety of classroom books and articles that can aid them in their knowledge discovery. Students will be free to produce charts, construct models, etc. Audio Visual: Yanomami: Keepers of the Flame. 58 min., 1992.
bullet Lesson 8- The Importance of the Amazon Rainforest to the People of the World and How and Why the Rainforest Habitats are being Destroyed. Methodology will be similar to lessons 6 and 7. In addition there will be research on the tools used to gather information about Amazon rainforest discussion, the pharmacological uses of rain forest plants and animals and research, discussion of the Greenhouse Effect, mercury poisoning, cattle grazing, the World Bank, etc. In addition to hypertext essays, students will be free to produce charts, construct models, etc. Audio visual: Kai Tei: Voices of the Land. 21 min., 1986. Also: Rainforests: Proving Their Worth. 30 min., 1990.
bullet Lesson 9- Students in groups will be asked to combine the results of their research and published reports in Lessons 6-8 into a group presentation to the overall class. Bilingual Spanish speaking students will be expected to bring unique perspectives and output to the group presentations that reflect their cultural background and Spanish proficiency. Group presentations will be evaluated by the peer group and the teacher according to a jointly developed student/teacher rubric.
bullet Lesson 10- Ideally the class has a good grasp of the harmful effects of rain forest destruction. They now will be asked to role play up to seven different roles in order to gain an appreciation of the competing economic interests that effect a hypothetical decision by the Mexican government to allow a large portion of their rain forests to be cut down. Individual role players will compose simulated letters to the Mexican government supporting their view points.
bullet Lesson 11- The methodology of lessons 6-9 will be followed except now the students, in small groups will be tasked with : (1) Sharing the results of their work with other students in the world by e-mail and participation in Listserv groups and (2) Deciding on what real action they will take to address rain forest problems. This might include letter writing, teaching younger students, modifying buying habits, joining organizations, etc.
bullet Lesson 12- Lesson 12 will be the presentation of the findings of Lesson 11 to the entire class. The class as a whole will then decide on class or school wide projects and begin strategies for organizing, etc. Group presentations will be evaluated by the peer group and the teacher. Audio Visual: Our Threatened Heritage. 19 min., 1988 and Spaceship Earth. 25 min., 1990.


Instructional Resources

Core Literature includes but is not limited to the following works:

bullet "The Great Kapok Tree" by Lynne Cherry
bullet "Earth’s Vanishing Forests" by Roy Gallant
bullet "The Primary Source", by Norman Myers
bullet "Trees of Life", by Kenton Miller and Laura Tangley
bullet "The Fate of the Forest", by Susanna Hecht and Alexander Cockburn
bullet "Tropical Rainforests: Our Endangered Planet", by Cornelia Mutel and Mary Rodgers
bullet "Rain Forest Destruction", by Tony Hare
bullet "Tropical Rainforests of the World", by Ted Smart, A Tribute to International Wildlife Conservation
bullet "Life in the Rainforest", Melvin Berger

Audio Visuals include:

Captain Planet: A Hero for the Planet. 1990.

Produced by Turner Program Services. In cartoon format, five children from five different countries are summoned by Gaia to work together toward healing our sick planet. The children are granted special powers (derived from the elements water, fire, etc.) when combined create Captain Planet. Captain Planet helps the children combat environmental villains such as Looten Plunder and Vermous Scum in an attempt to create a just and healthy Earth. Contact: Turner Educational Services at (800) 742- 1096. Accompanying teacher's packet available for $5.

Kai Tei: Voices of the Land. 21 min., 1986.

A series of interviews expose the devastating ecological and cultural effects that cattle ranching imposes on one indigenous community living in Costa Rica. It will make you think about biting into that next hamburger. Contact: Documentary films, 4917 Hazal Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19143-2004.

Mayan Rainforest Farming. 29 min., 1983

9th grade - Adult. As part of an ecology workshop series, this film describes a centuries-old Mayan model of sustainable rainforest agriculture. Contact: Cinema Guild. Sale $195, Rent $50.

Our Threatened Heritage. 19 min., 1988

Jr. High to Adult Produced by the National Wildlife Federation. Provides a concise overview of the destruction of the rainforests and what action can be undertaken to halt it. The link between environment and development in the tropics is explored. Contact: The Video Project. VHS: Sale $29.95.

People and Rainforests Slide Show. 15 min., 1991.

Produced by Cultural Survival. Introduces students to the indigenous peoples who live in the worlds rapidly shrinking rainforests. Contact: Cultural Survival. Sale $125, Rent $25.

Rainforests: Proving Their Worth. 30 min., 1990

High school to Adult). Produced by Interlock Media Associates. Is a living rainforest of greater economic value than one that has been cut down? This award- winning film provokes this question by exploring the promising new movement to market forest products which are sustainably harvested by local peoples. Contact: The Video Project. VHS Sale $85, Rent $45*.

Rainforest Rap. 6 min.

Produced by World Wildlife Fund. Set to rap music, this video portrays the problems facing tropical rainforests and how kids can participate in solutions. Contact: World Wildlife Fund, 1250 24th St., NW., Washington DC 20037. (202) 293-4800.

RAN slide show for Kids. (40 slides) 1993.

Grades 3-6. Introduces the biodiversity of rainforests, as well as sustainable and non-sustainable uses of the resources contained within. Contact: RAN. Sale $50.00, Rent $25.

Spaceship Earth. 25 min., 1990

10 years to Adult. Produced by Worldlink. Kids eating burgers in Los Angeles. Surfers in Australia. Forest peoples in the Amazon. What do they all have in common? This film offers a unique demonstration of the amazing interdependency between human, natural, and technological systems. Hosted entirely by young people, this unusual video journeys the world examining three critical environmental issues: deforestation, global warming, and ozone depletion. Features international rock star Sting, an articulate spokesperson on the rainforests. Contact: The Video Project. VHS Sale $39.95.

The Price of Progress. 54 min., 1987.

Produced by Nicholas Claxton. Next to killing them, the worst thing you can do to a people is force them to move. This provocative film investigates three huge resettlement programs in India, Brazil and Indonesia---all sponsored by the World Bank, the world's largest lending institution. Using the World Bank's own documents the film analyzes the social, environmental, and economic costs of some of the bank's lending policies. Contact: Cinema Guild. VHS Sale $350, Rent$75.

The Vanishing Forest: The Crisis of Tropical Deforestation. 40 min., 1987

9 years to Adult. Produced by Knowledge Unlimited. This in- depth film-strip, accompanied by an audio-cassette and teachers guide, describes tropical rainforests, the threats they face and the efforts to save them. Contact: Knowledge Unlimited, Inc., P.O. Box 52, Madison, WI 53701. (800) 356-2303.

Tropical Kingdom of Belize. 60 min., 1984.

A video collage extolling the biodiversity of Belize. Contact: National Geographic Society, Educational Services, Dept 89, Washington DC 20036 or Karol Media at (800) 647-0710. VHS: Sale $24.20.

Yanomami: Keepers of the Flame. 58 min., 1992

High school to Adult. A documentary of an expedition by a group of journalists, anthropologists, and doctors who journeyed to the Venezuelan rainforests to visit with the Ashetoeateri village, a Yanomami community never contacted by the outside world. A brief history of indigenous peoples in the Americas is provided, as well as an in depth look at the Yanomami way of life through Western eyes. Concludes with a plea from Native Americans for preserving and respecting all cultures. Contact: The Video Project. VHS: Sale $95, Rent $45*.

You Can't Grow Home Again. 58 min., 1990.

For ages 8-14. Produced by Children's Television Workshop for 3-2-1 Contact. Designed as a rainforest primer for children, this program teaches basic Life Science concepts, including biodiversity, species identification, and the importance of rainforests in preventing global warming. Informative and captivating, this video brings the rainforests and science to life. Contact: The Video Project. VHS: Sale $29.95.


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