Handbook of Engaged Learning Projects



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An Expedition to the Tropical Rainforest

The third and sixth grade students have apparently entered the rainforest. Actually, these two groups of students recreated a rainforest after nine weeks of study.


This project is an innovative way to combine two nonconsecutive grade levels in an engaged learning project using various aspects of technology. This unit will integrate social studies, math, language arts, and science. This project was designed to encourage interaction, cooperation, and exploration between third and sixth grade students. This unique project enables students to seize ownership of their learning and provides them with a real audience for their work.

Our unit will involve a comprehensive study of the tropical rainforests and their future. During this nine-week unit, students will be exploring tropical rainforests around the globe. They will evaluate the destruction of the rainforests, share their newfound knowledge with the school and community, and assist in efforts to save acreage in the Brazilian Rainforest. Students will be expected to design a product or presentation that will effectively demonstrate the importance of the rainforests on the world's inhabitants. The culmination of this unit will include an Ecological Sharing Encounter and a Rainforest Rally.

As the unit begins, students will be combined for a brainstorming activity. The entire group will develop a KWL (what they already Know, what they Want to know, and what they Learned). During this time, students will develop a rubric that will assess the success of their products. The journey begins with a visualization activity that includes a dark room and rainforest sounds as they are led on an imaginary journey through the rainforest.

Next, the students will watch a video from National Geographic called Animals of the Wild. Another outstanding video that might be substituted is Dorlean Kindersely's video, Jungle. The movie Ferngully will also be shown to the students, showing the effects of rainforest deforestation. At the end of this activity students will again process this information by group discussion.

To ensure the students have a good understanding of the geographic regions the rainforest encompasses, they will in groups of two, develop maps of the area. To produce these maps students will use multi-media encyclopedias, like Encarta CD-ROM, and Comptons CD-ROM, and Grolier's Maps and Facts CD-ROM. They will also utilize the Internet for research, visiting such sites such as Amazon Interactive where students can interact with a simulation of how Ecotourism will affect the rainforest.

The next step will be for students to develop short (5-7) Hyperstudio or ClarisWorks slide shows about either the animals, plants, foods, or natural resources of the rainforest.

To help students understand the diverse cultures of the rainforest peoples and how they are impacted by the destruction of the rainforest, several literature selections are introduced including "What About Miguel" a story about a child who lives in the rainforest.

At the start of this project, students will distribute large jars or coffee cans to each classroom in the school. They will create signs and posters utilizing Print Shop Deluxe and ClarisWorks to inform the entire student body of the drive to collect pennies which will be used to purchase acres of the rainforest in the name of Braceville School students. Near the end of the project a local Grundy county sheriff' s deputy in full uniform will collect the pennies during a school-wide Ecological Sharing Encounter.

During the final event of this project the entire school day will be devoted to sharing the students' products with the entire school at a Rainforest Rally. Parents and interested community members are invited to share this special day with the students. The students will further demonstrate their knowledge of the rainforest by transforming the empty Music Room into a rainforest. By using art supplies available at the school, the students will create a virtual rainforest in their school. Guided tours of the rainforest will be given throughout the day with students acting as guides.

Following the rally, students will e-mail state senators, representatives and President Clinton asking for help in saving the rainforest. There are few paramneters given for the content of the letter. By reviewing the letters, the teachers can assess the scope of information about the rainforest the students have.

The final asssessment will be done using the rubric that was created during the KWL exercise. Students will do self-assessment, and the teachers will also do an assessment based on the criteria of the rubric.

Student Projects -- Below are examples of student projects produced for the Rainforest Rally:

Authors: Patti Furlano, Joyce Nelson, Teri Rakes, and Amy Willis, Braceville School, Braceville, IL.
Handbook of Engaged Learning Projects sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab. Funded by the North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium based at the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL).
Created: July, 1997