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Eighth Grade, Lesson 2: Protecting the Guatemalan Rainforest through Certification

Eighth Grade, Lesson 2: Protecting the Guatemalan Rainforest through Certificati


Students explore different criteria that may be involved in forest certification and consider the benefits of certification to the Guatemalan rainforest and rainforest communities. They then create a brochure to educate family, friends, and other students about the benefits of buying certified forests products when they have the choice.


Students will describe what forest certification is.

Students will identify ways that certification can benefit the environment, the people who live in and near the forest, and the consumer.


Healthy rainforests are a critical part of the web of life. They release oxygen through their leaves, filter pollutants from the air, and help stabilize the global climate by absorbing carbon dioxide. They also provide us with valuable resources like wood, food, and medicinal plants.

Forest certification is one approach to protecting rainforests and other forests from destructive practices. It is a way to inform consumers that a particular wood, paper, or other forest product comes from a forest or a company that meets strict environmental and social standards. An independent organization evaluates the practices of the forest manager and identifies the certified product with a seal or other marking.

Consumer demand for certified products gives an incentive for retailers and manufacturers to look for certified forest suppliers. This in turn drives forest managers to use environmentally and socially sound practices that will help to ensure the long-term sustainability of the forests and the communities that depend on them.

Related Project Learning Tree Activities

- Tropical Treehouse (PreK-8 Guide)
- Understanding the Effects of Forest Uses (Forests of the World)

Part A -- Forest Certification


- Copies of student pages
- Wall-size world map
- Sample brochures (optional)
- Paper
- Colored pencils

Time Considerations

Preparation: 20 minutes
Doing the Activity: 45 minutes

Getting Ready

  1. Make copies of the Forest Certification student page.

Doing the Activity

  1. Introduce the activity by having students imagine going to the store to buy a composition notebook for school. Ask, "Which notebook would you buy if you find two that are pretty much the same, but Notebook A costs $2.49 and Notebook B costs $1.99? What factors might you consider in deciding which to buy?" List these factors on the board and have students identify those that are most important to them.
  2. Ask students how it might influence their choice if you knew that Notebook A was made by a company that only uses paper fiber from recycled paper or from forests that are carefully maintained, while Notebook B was made by a company that uses the cheapest paper fiber it can get, no matter the source. What if they knew that Notebook A's company pays its employees a high enough wage to support their families, while Notebook B's pays only the absolute minimum allowed by law? Point out that these examples show that our consumer choices can affect much more than just our own wallets: they can affect the health of the forest and the lives of workers, among other things. Ask, "What else might your choice of notebook affect? (List their ideas on the board.) When you are at the store, you can see the price of an item, but how would you know about these other aspects?"
  3. Explain that forest certification is one way for consumers to know that a particular product comes from a forest that is managed with certain environmental and social considerations in mind. Forest certification is a process where an independent organization checks out the company's forestry practices, and then puts a label on the wood or other forest product to show that the company satisfies specific requirements.
  4. Give students copies of the "Forest Certification Principles" student page. Read the 10 principles as a class. After making sure that students understand what each of the principles describes, have the class identify which principles emphasize the environment, which emphasize social and cultural aspects, and which emphasize businesses or economics. Point out that a particular principle may fall into more than one of these categories.
  5. Ask students individually to put a star next to the five principles they think are most important. Then, in small groups, have students discuss their choices and try to reach a group consensus about the top five. Ask several groups to share their top choices.
  6. Lead a class discussion: Which principles did most groups include in their top five? Which of these are most important for the people who live in or near the forest?  Which are most important for consumers? Which are most important for the business making or selling the product? Which are most important for the forest environment? How are all the principles related to each other? What might happen if we only did what is best for the forest? For people?

Part B -- Certified Products Brochure


- Copies of student pages
- Wall-size world map
- Sample brochures (optional)
- Paper
- Colored pencils

Time Considerations

Preparation: 20 minutes or more
Doing the Activity: 45 minute session, plus time to make brochures

Getting Ready

  1. Make copies of the Certified Products from Guatemala and Brochure Format student pages.
  2. Make a sample from the student page by cutting out the Side One and Side Two illustrations, taping them back-to-back, and then folding on the dotted lines. (Optional) Collect several brochures from your community for examples.

Doing the Activity

  1. Ask students what they know or have heard about Guatemala. If they do not know where Guatemala is, help them find it on the world map.
  2. Give students a copy of the "Certified Products from Guatemala" student page and have them read about how forest certification affects the Guatemalan rainforest and the people living within it. Discuss:
    • What products do the people of Uaxactún get from the forest?
    • How has certifying xate and wood helped the community of Uaxactún?
    • How has it helped to protect the rainforest around Uaxactún?
    • What are other benefits of certification? (Begin a list of the benefits on the board.)
    • What might be disadvantages of certification?
    • What can we do to teach our families and friends about the value of certified forest products?
  3. Explain that students will make brochures to inform others about forest product certification and the benefits of buying certified forest products when they have a choice. (Optional) Show a few sample brochures, and have students point some of the techniques used in them.
  4. Give students copies of the "Brochure Format" student page. Show them the sample you made (see Getting Ready) so that they can see how the different panels and spreads will work together when folded. Go over the suggested brochure format and encourage students to think about the most effective text and illustrations to include in their brochures. Suggest that they include some of the benefits of certification listed in step 2, and that they also address factors that influence what people buy (as explored in Part A).
  5. Allow time for students to complete their brochures, and then have them present the brochures to family members and peers. Follow up by asking students how effective they thought their brochures were and how they might improve them.


Check with local florists or wholesale flower distributors to find out when and where xate (also known as jade palm or fishtail palm) is available in your area. Find out how much it costs and whether it is known to be forest certified.  If possible, get some sample fronds for students to observe first-hand.

Invite a guest to speak with the class about certified forest products available in your community. Help students brainstorm a list of questions to ask your guest, such as:

  • What certified products does your company offer?
  • Where do the products come from?
  • Who certifies the products?
  • Do you prefer one certification program over another?
  • How do certified products benefit the consumer or our community?
  • Does certification have any downsides or shortcomings?

The Rainforest Alliance curricula is unique in that it teaches language arts, math, science, social studies and the arts while addressing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English language arts and mathematics, and the Next Generation Science Standards. Our multidisciplinary curricula present information on forests, biodiversity, local communities and sustainable practices. Lessons provide a global perspective on the importance of protecting the world's natural resources, locally and globally, while giving students opportunities for direct action.

To help teachers seamlessly integrate our resources into their lesson plans, we have correlated our kindergarten through 8th grade and climate curriculum guides to the Common Core State Standards for both English language arts and mathematics, as well as the Next Generation Science Standards. Please feel free to use these correlations to help guide you through these lessons, as well to help you identify extensions and adaptations to advance your work.

The Rainforest Alliance can help your school district incorporate local standards and closely align our curricula with the educational mandates in your region.

In addition to the above standards, the education program seeks to advance alignment opportunities with the US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development; National Education for Sustainability (K-12) Student Learning Standards.

For any further inquiries, please contact us at

Assessment Opportunity

Use students' brochures to assess their learning about forest product certification and its benefits.

Slideshow [PDF] about Guatemala developed by the Rainforest Alliance.

Online photo scrapbook of children living in the Maya Biosphere Reserve.

Report - Impact of Forest Stewardship Council Certification on Deforestation and the Incidence of Wildfires in the Maya Biosphere Reserve by David Hughell and Rebecca Butterfield (2008).

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