Plants of the Rain Forest

Grade Levels: 3 - 5

Overview

This lesson will increase students' awareness of the important types of plants found in the rain forest.

Objectives

  • Students will understand that the rain forest is being destroyed at a fast rate.
  • Students will learn that certain plants of the rain forest are important to humans.
  • Students will raise awareness of some of these plants by creating a mural.

Materials

  • Large piece of white butcher paper, about 15 feet long and 3 feet wide
  • Colored markers and pencils (one box of each for each of five groups)
  • Pencils and paper for all students
  • Index cards
  • Chalk or whiteboard
  • Meter stick
  • Plants of the Rain Forest Rubric

Procedure

  1. Review the following vocabulary words with students prior to beginning the lesson: plant species, public awareness, medicinal.
  2. In advance of the lesson, write these plant names in five columns on the board: 1) alfalfa, Brazil nut, cacao; 2) guava, horsetail, maca; 3) chamomile, nettles, Pata de Vaca; 4) lemon balm, snakegourd, tangerine peel; 5) cupuacu, quassia, yerba mate. Hang a piece of butcher paper in a part of the classroom where students can work on it with ease. Draw light pencil marks on the paper to divide it vertically into five segments.
  3. Discuss with students what they know about rain forests. Review these facts: rain forests are usually found in the tropics and they receive from 4-8 meters of rain per year, five times the rainfall of some states in the U.S. Use a meter stick to visually demonstrate this amount. Rain forests are home to half of the 5-10 million species of plants in the world. Ask a volunteer why plant species are important. Inform students that plants are used as a vital ingredient in many medicines; quite a few cancer treatments, for example, are dependent on plants found in the rain forest. Furthermore, many plants in the rain forest have yet to be identified and studied, so we don't yet know their potential value. Discuss why public awareness of rain-forest plants is important to the continuation of their existence.
  4. Divide students into five groups. Inform them that they are going to make a mural to raise awareness of some species of plants in the rain forest. Assign one column on the board to each group. Ask students to quickly divide their group into Leader, Researchers, and Artists.
  5. Direct groups to find each of their plant species on the list, using the following site: http://rain-tree.com/plants.htm. Click on the plant name, then scroll down to the sentences or paragraph describing the plant. Researchers should jot down on an index card a fact about the plant and two of its main uses; Artists should copy the picture of the plant onto the group's space on the mural paper. Ask groups to talk over the main uses of the plant so that everyone understands its uses. Caution them that if they do not understand a use, they should not list it and the Leader should use classroom resources, such as a dictionary, to help clarify the information they have found.
  6. Each Leader will present his or her group's segment of the mural, explaining the three plants and their uses. As a class, come to a consensus about a title for the mural (e.g., “Some Important Plants of the Rain Forest,” “We Need These Plants”).

Assessment

See Plants of the Rain Forest Rubric.

Extensions

  • Discover the Rain Forest Theme on TeacherVision® for great lesson plans and activities for all grades.
  • Create a class project about the rain forest after reading about the issues presented by the Rainforest Action Network at http://ran.org/issues/forests/.
  • Read more information about the medicinal properties of rain forest plants: http://www.rain-tree.com/.
  • Research the discovery of important drugs, such as penicillin, AZT, aspirin, and the polio vaccine.

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