Materials: Chart paper, pens, access to library with rain forest references, access to Internet, packet of authentic correspondence and reproducible, (Optional: Study Commission on the Rain Forest Hyper Studio Stack.)

Purpose: To motivate students to do independent research on the issues surrounding the rain forest.


Draft H/SS Standards Grade 10: Students describe the earth's natural spaces and the interplay between physical characteristics and historical developments ... including analyzing ways humans depend upon, adapt to, and affect the physical environment and the global effects of human modification of the physical environment.

Language Arts Standards - Listening and Speaking: Students formulate adroit judgments and deliver focused and coherent presentations of their own that convey clear and distinct perspectives and solid reasoning...[using] clear thesis statements and appropriate types of proofs.

Rationale: Students lose motivation to study subjects which are imposed by traditional methods such as lectures, book research and answering the questions at the end of the chapter. In this unit, students will take on the role of a committee which must make some difficult, yet informed decisions about a controversial subject, the disappearing rain forest.

Day 1 (allow at least one hour)

Give the students some basic information about the rain forest. Using a world map, show the students where tropical rain forests exist (generally between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn) Discuss with the students what one might find in a rain forest. Write down some ideas on the board as a brainstorm activity.

Hyper Studio Stack Option: If you have access to a computer in your classroom which is equipped with a Hyper Studio player, this option adds much to your whole class discussions. Hyper Studio is a presentation software program with cross-platform capabilities. A Hyper Studio project is a series of images or "cards" which are connected together by buttons, much like the Internet. These "cards" make up what is called a "stack". The Study Commission Stack allows you to display images to the class, simulate the consequences of their decisions and create a high-tech classroom environment which motivates students to participate. You may down-load a Hyper studio player at or receive a free trial CD ROM sample, which includes a player, by calling 1-800-HYPERSTUDIO.

Authentic Correspondence

If the Hyper Studio Stack is not going to work for your classroom environment, the following is the text of the letters from the various characters of this simulation:

Brazilian Mining Company

Dear Commission on Rain Forests:

Please consider the interests of my country when making your recommendation to the United Nations. Each year, we mine nearly 70 tons of gold from the rain forest areas of our country. With this gold we are able to purchase what we need to feed our families, build and maintain our roads and pay those who work so hard. If the rain forests become closed to mining, what would we do?


Juan Gomez


U.S. University Bug Collectors

Dear Commission on Rain Forests:

During the past 3 years it has come to our attention that the leaf-cutter ant of the Brazilian rain forest has become more and more difficult to locate. It used to be that all we had to do was leave a bit of food lying around and we had all the leaf-cutters we could use. Now it takes as long as 6 hours to find enough ants to do our research.

We feel there are fewer leaf-cutters because of the logging operation which is clearing an area of rain forest the size of a football field every day.

Our research with these leaf-cutter ants is very important. What if these ants hold the cure for cancer or AIDS in their little bodies? Please do whatever it takes to stop the destruction of the rain forest.


I.M. Buggy

Government of Brazil

Dear Commission of Rain Forests:

It has come to my attention that everyone on this commission of yours is from the United States. Do you think this is fair? Your country has destroyed many of its own forests. How can you have the right to tell us how to use ours?

Besides this, 6% of the wood we get from the rain forest is sold to you in the United States where it is made into furniture and homes. And because of your love for hamburger, we clear more and more rain forest to make room for the cattle we raise in order to have enough beef for you to buy.

If you want to save the world, start at home!


The People of Brazil

The Yanomamo Tribe of Northern Brazil

Dear Commission:

My people are very afraid. For thousands of years we have lived from the rain forest. We use only what we need to live. Our way of life has not changed until very recently. We now hear the roar of big machines which knock down many trees a day. We fear our way of life is threatened. Please remember us and all the other tribes of the rain forest when you make your decision.


Tua Lumpo

Space Station: Freedom

Dear Commission:

We have been observing all rain forested areas for a period of six weeks. Although we are alarmed at how much rain forest seems to be disappearing, we are not quite sure how this will effect the earth. Our scientists disagree.

Some feel that the increase of carbons in the air will cause global warming. Other scientists believe that the earth can recover from any warming because it will cause an increase of clouds which will cool the earth. We are not sure.

We can give you no definitive proof that the loss of rain forests will destroy the earth.


Zeb Spacewalker

Role Cards

Spice up your classroom discussions and debates by having students role play characters who have interests in the rain forest. Here are some ideas:

Pedro Feliz: Gold Miner

Juan has lived near the rain forest of Brazil all his life. His father was a gold miner before he was. His family has operated a gold mine for 45 years. Without the gold mine Juan's family and the 35 people who work for him have no way to make a living. Is it fair to close down his gold mine? Is he the only one destroying the rain forest?

I.M. Buggy: Bug Collector

Dr. Buggy has been traveling the Rain Forest looking for rare bugs for 10 years. He believes a new medicine could be found in leaf cutter ants. He used to be able to find plenty of these ants. Now he can only find a few as the rain forest seems to be disappearing. Dr. Buggy is worried about the rain forest and the ants. What if the cure for cancer or aids is being lost? What happens to the food chain if these ants disappear?

Tua Lumpu: Yanomamo Indian

Tua's family have lived on only what they find in the rain forest for thousands of years. His way of life is threatened. Many of his cousins from other Indian tribes have already moved into cities where they have trouble finding jobs and places to live. Why can't Tua live the way his family has always lived? When you cut down the rain forest, you cut down his home.

Jose Lopez: Cattle Rancher

Jose has lived as a poor farmer all his life. Now a man has come offering him thousands of dollars if he would raise more cattle. To do this he must cut down some rain forest to make room for his stock. All of his neighbors plan to do the same thing. Should he stay poor? Should he go ahead and raise more cattle for more money?

Proposed Solutions

Students will really want to resolve the issues of the rain forest. It is my opinion that the issue can not be resolved to the satisfaction of all interested. In the past, my students have come up with many interesting (although often impossible) solutions. Generally, the solutions fall into three categories:

1.Preserve All Rain Forests

This solutions cuts off all harvesting of rain forest products except for indigenous people (who take only what they need) and scientists (who take only what they need for research).

2.Create Rain Forest Reserves

This allows for some rain forest areas to be open to harvesting while protecting certain areas, particularly those areas with indigenous people.

3.Allow Nations to Decide for Themselves.

This option assumes each nation will do what is best for their own country. Each country can choose to create reserves or do whatever they feel would be in their own best interests.

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