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By Marianne Anderson

Type of entry:

  • Project

Type of Activity:

  • Hands-on
  • Simulation
  • Group/Cooperative learning
  • Interdisciplinary (Biology with Spanish)

Target audience:

  • Biology
  • Life Sciences
  • Integrated Science 1 and/ or 2
  • Environmental studies

What question(s) does this activity help students answer?:

  • What is the biological and cultural diversity of a particular Latin American country
    (ex. Ecuador, Costa Rico, Mexico)?
  • What is the status of that diversity?
  • What is the importance of preserving that diversity?

Background Information

Notes for teacher:

Here's a ready-made project for those interested in keeping students hooked on science by focusing on one of those scientific topics most kids are inherently interested in; animals, and making it relevant. This integration of Biology and Spanish is a more unusual interdisciplinary approach using performance tasks that are authentic, engaging, active and open. It also allows for greater flexibility in monitoring student progress and encourages alternative assessments.

Required of students:

To do this major type of project with so many students it is suggested that students have previously worked together on smaller projects. From them is needed a sense of humor, curiosity, and a general willingness to cooperate and participate.


Since 2 classroom teachers are involved; several hours are initially required to discuss the overall schedule of events and division of labor (who will be in charge of invitations, program, t-shirt sales, logo, space, etc.). During the month that the classes are involved in the preparation of the project; an additional 30 - 60 minutes/week are necessary to keep up to date on the progress and any problems.

Class time: One month of in-class preparation plus one full day of the actual Summit Meeting.



Students from Honors Biology and 3rd/4th year Spanish conduct an 8 hour Annual Summit Meeting on the Cultural and Biological Diversity of a Latin American Country. Students construct a Rainforest in the school's Media Center, coffee and banana plantations in the hallway, and a street scene of a typical large city in a classroom. Students assume roles of native people or scientists and share information and ideas with formal presentation. Social interactions occur at coffee breaks, taste-testing luncheon, and games/dance finale.


  • For research: Media Center Resources such as Journals, books, newsprint, videos, Internet
  • For construction: Large rolls of colored construction paper, used carpet rolls, tape, scissors, wooden frames
  • For presentation: cassette music of Rainforest and player.


Students in the 3rd/4th year Spanish class invite the Honors Biology students to visit their country to formally discuss the problems of the Rainforest which plays a vital role in maintaining biodiversity and the culture/economy of their country. The task is to determine how people can both manage the Rainforest in order to preserve the animal and plant biodiversity and the Indian culture; yet develop the Rainforest to increase sustenance and productivity for the economy of the country.

Classtime was spent discussing the geography, history, and ecosystems of the country. What is a Rainforest? What is happening in that country to their rainforests? For how long? What are the results? What are the products of the Rainforest? Which are used at the local or global level? What about the Indigenous people? What is the major industry? Who owns the land? What kind of government? Etc....

The students define preparatory committees for the summit: design logo, invitations, programs, take pictures, sell t-shirts, write news release, bring food, and they volunteer.

The Spanish class divides into 6 teams: Gobierno, Los Indigenos, Iglesia, Duenos, La Prens, and Profesores. The team research their role, impact, and influence in the country and decide on how to present their findings to the others. The scientists become botanists, ornithologists, herpetologists, entomologists, mycologists, mammalogists, and ichthyologists. Each team does an overview of the situation and each student decides on a specific organism to study and to construct. The biologists also collect pertinent information of their organism (scientific name, habitat, food, predators, size, and interesting fact) which is displayed on a card with the animal. Much of the actual animal construction is done at home on student time. The canopy and placement of animals and signs, etc. are done 2-3 class periods before the summit meeting.

The summit meeting itself is student run and conducted. There are general assemblies, panels, special sessions, a guest speaker, lunch, breaks, and relaxing finale. The Rainforest remains in the media center for a week so other students can see it.

Method of Evaluation:

Each teacher prepares their own 4 x 5 rubric: none, below standard, standard, above standard ranking for each of the following items for the biology students:

  1. Construction of animal
  2. Display card information
  3. Scientific involvement in the summit
  4. Preparatory committee involvement
  5. Bibliography.


Students were asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding the events of the summit, what they learned, and what suggestions they might have. The Media Center requested that some animals stay on to be used for decoration for the Heritage Foundation dinner. The Rainforest animal props were also used in a traveling tour of the junior high schools prior to the senior high registration. This allowed incoming sophomores to see what kinds of activities they could anticipate at the senior high school.

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