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Teaching Tropical Rainforest Biology

Saving Tropical Rainforests: Taking Action!

Although disheartening, we must anticipate that the population and economic pressures currently being brought to bear on tropical rainforests will cause much of them to be lost. As educators, let us not yield to pessimism but use our position to make every effort to minimize the biodiversity loss that will occur.

Having heard the bad news, what can we do? We have the power to touch a lot of people. Many of our students, and adults for that matter, are simply not aware of the wonders found within the tropical rainforests. Nor are they conscious of the tremendous loss (and threat) to society that tropical rainforest ruination represents. Let’s teach them about it.

  • For suggestions on a high-school level unit on tropical rainforests, return to the Table of Contents.

  • After exposing your high school students to tropical rainforest ecology, why not have them act as peer teachers and give brief presentations to nearby elementary or junior high classes?

  • Aside from standard instructional approaches, other possible ways of teaching about rainforests include presentations to special groups such as gifted and talented classes, science clubs, or senior citizen groups.

  • Another possibility could be a class, school or corporation-wide rainforest awareness day or program with a variety of activities.

  • Get your local newspaper and TV people involved. They enjoy covering special school projects and the publicity will be positive for not only the rainforests but for you and your school.

  • Other approaches? Have your Science Club, class or school work to raise funds to adopt an acre of rainforest through programs such as the one sponsored by The Nature Conservancy.

  • Some teachers have worked to raise funds to actually take their students on trips to the tropical rainforests of Jatun Sacha in Ecuador and Explorama Lodge in Peru for example.

  • Educate your students and the public in regards to boycotting tropical rainforest wood products such as mahogany furniture or paneling made from rosewood.

  • Encourage the purchase of products that are sustainably harvested from the rainforest. These include items such as chocolates, Brazil nuts, cashews, and handcrafts such as tagua (ivory palm) jewelry and chambira palm bags.

  • Consider becoming an ecotourist. If the local people can’t make money from tourism, they will make money from the forest itself. This probably means unsustainable exploitation.

  • Lastly, don’t forget that as we educate ourselves and our students the rainforest destruction continues. Think about having your students become activists. Allow them to write to organizations and government representatives, here and abroad, regarding their concern for tropical rainforest loss. This is also a useful way to introduce the concept of environmental empowerment in your classes.

These are only a few suggestions. The many wonderful biology teachers I’ve met at national, state, and local gatherings convince me that the potential for coming up with inventive and effective ways of teaching tropical rainforest biology and conservation are boundless.

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