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Teaching about the Rainforest

Warren Marchioni, Frances Vandervoort, Frank Hinerman, Ann Stocker, and Judy Kemlitz
1991 Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute


Classroom Ideas

  • Try to germinate tropical plant seeds in the classroom and have students determine the best conditions for plant growth (high humidity and warm temperatures.) Either order seeds (see Resources) or have students save seeds from tropical fruits they eat.

  • Visit a local botanical garden or conservatory so students can see the variety of tropical plants in the world.

  • Many large zoos have tropical rainforest exhibits. Before you take your class to the zoo, find out what materials are available from the zoo's education department. Use them to prepare your students for a meaningful visit.

  • Examine a variety of tropical fruits and seeds and have students determine the seeds' means of dispersal. (Students will find a variety of dispersal methods, reflecting the variety of the rainforest's flora and fauna.)

  • Take a field trip to a local natural history museum to visit displays depicting tropical rainforest peoples.

  • Learn about the kinds of soils that exist in tropical rain forests. Prepare soil similar to tropical rainforest soil and use it for growing plants, observing percolation and studying pH and buffering properties.

  • Make a model of laterite soil, showing horizons, percolation properties and other characteristics you feel are significant.

  • Obtain tropical plant and animal products, including over-the-counter products (caffeine, matein, etc.) and determine their effect on experimental laboratory organisms.

  • Have students research drugs that are extracted from tropical rainforest plants and animals. You might consider quinine (for malaria), curare or tubocurarine chloride ( used in surgery), ipecac (induces vomiting), diogenin (used in birth control pills), vincristine (for Hodgkin's disease), quinidene (for heart fibrillation), chymopapain (to treat "slipped" discs).

Rain Forest Resources:

A stellar collection of rainforest ideas, Rainforests: A Teacher's Resource Guide has been collected by Lynn Chase, Southern Regional High School, Manahawkin, NJ 08050. Ms. Chase was sponsored by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and asks $5.00 to cover the cost of xeroxing and mailing.

For seeds of tropical plants to grow in your classroom or greenhouse, try The Banana Tree, 715 Northampton St., Easton, PA 10842 or Park Seed Co., Highway 254 North, Greenwood, SC 29647

From Chariot Software Group, 3659 India Street, San Diego, CA 92103. Adventures in the Rainforest. (Macintosh software game package, ages 9 to adult: contains Eco-Adventures in the Rainforest, three disks and an instruction manual, a poster, and one copy of The Rainforest Book, $49.95)

From Frank T. Hinerman, Mt. Lebanon High School, 155 Cochran Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15228: A Laser Disc Lesson: Human Ecology - Tropical Deforestation. This interactive lesson covers the major points of a truly global issue - tropical deforestation. For the Level I format, one needs a monitor, laser disc player and the Bioscience Laser Disc from Videodiscovery. For Level III, one also needs and IBM or compatible computer and VIDKIT II from Videodiscovery.

From Intellimation (Environmental Resources Collection), 130 Cremona Drive, P.O. Box 219, attn. PM, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-0219. (805) 968-2291, FAX (805) 968-8899: The Rainforest Book. (Packet includes audio tape and activity guide, $12.50) Global Recall. (Macintosh software, electronic atlas with HyperCard stacks, grades 7-12) SimEarth. ( Macintosh software, simulates students taking over management of a planet's geosphere, atmosphere, biosphere and civilization.)

From Sierra Club. 408 C Street NE, Washington D. C. 20002, "Tropical Rain Forests: A Vanishing Treasure."September 1990 Head, Suzanne and Robert Heinzman, Lessons of the Rainforest. ($17.95 to non-members)

From SIRS, the Social Issues Resource Series, the full series is now available on CD-ROM. Social Resource Series, Inc., PO Box 2348, Boca Raton, FL 33427-9968. SIRS 89-90 Science (979 articles), SIRS 89-90 Social Science and Critical Issues (2159 articles) These two can also be purchased in a set and can be purchased with an index. The data base will be updated each year and all updates will be cumulative. This requires an IBM or IBM-compatible computer, at least 512 KB of free memory, MS-DOS or PC-DOS 2.1 or higher, CD-ROM drive and hard disk drive with at least 3 MB of space available.

From VideoDiscovery, 1515 Dexter Avenue North, Suite 400, Seattle, WA 98109-3017, (800) 548-3472, Bio Sc II, (laser disc and software lessons, stacks for Macintosh and Linkway Folders for IBM compatibles accessing images on the videodiscs including a tour of the rainforest. Bio Sc II laser disc $549, The Bio Sci II stacks for the Macintosh $125, Bio Sc II Folders for IBM/compatibles $125) From Videodiscovery, a laserdisc with images from National Geographic Documentaries: The Rain Forest. (1515 Dexter Ave. N., Suite #400, Seattle WA 98109 (800) 548-3472, $32)

From World Wildlife Fund, A package containing a videotape Rain Forest Rap, teacher's and student's manuals, and a poster for $30; videotape only $15.)

Caufield, Catherine. In the Rain Forest: Report From a Strange, Beautiful, Imperiled World. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. 1991

International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU). Office for Interdisciplinary Earth Studies. Committee on Teaching of Science CTS). Earthquest. J. Stoltman. Secretary, CTS. Department of Geography. Western Michigan University. Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5053. (Developing unit on changing landscapes)

Fifth Annual World Rainforest Week. Oct. 19-26, 1991. Contact USA organizer: Rainforest Action Network. 301 Broadway, Suite A. San Francisco, CA 94133 (organizer's manual $5 for production and mailing costs)

Forsyth, A. and K. Miyata. Tropical Nature. NY: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1984

Kircher, John G. A Neotropical Companion: An Introduction to the Animals, Plants and Ecosystems of the New World Tropics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 1989

Marchioni, Warren and David J. Mazsa. "Twelve Tropical Tie-ins." The Science Teacher. National Science Teachers Association. Sept. 1988. vol. 55. pp 80-87 (Reprints available from Warren Marchioni, Montclair High School, Montclair, NJ 07042)

Whitmore, T. C. Introduction to the tropical Rain Forests. NY: Oxford University Press. 1991

Woods, Amanda L. "The Development of an Information Link between an Established Network of Individuals Working with Sustainable Development and Secondary Educators." Abstract of Presented Papers. National Association for Research in Science Teaching. 64th Annual NARST Conference. April 1991. (The Florida Institute of Technology has established a network of conservation biologists to improve communication between secondary school teachers and organizations including the: Organization for Tropical Studies, USAID, World Bank, North American Association for Environmental Educators, World Wildlife Fund, and the Latin American Division of Nature Conservancy. Contact Ms. Woods at FIT, Melbourn, FL.)


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