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Fifth Grade, Lesson 2: Birds and Coffee

Fifth Grade, Lesson 2: Birds and Coffee


In a global economy, where products from one country or bioregion are used in another bioregion, resource use and changes in the landscape impact the lives of species that depend on several bioregions for survival.

Essential Question 

How are migratory birds affected by coffee production in El Salvador?

Step 1 -- Connect (The Concept to Prior Knowledge)


Students will identify with the changing of the seasons and how these changes affect human and animal behavior. Students will explain what migration is and why many songbirds migrate south for the winter.


  1. As a class, brainstorm questions such as:
    • How do you dress during the different seasons?
    • What do you see in winter that you don't see in the summer?
    • How do animals react to the changing seasons? (Key words: migration, hibernation, adaptation)

Step 2 -- Literature/Discuss (Give Expert Information Book; Ask Questions)


Students will learn about the two main coffee production methods used in the rainforest and be able to identify how this affects the habitat and health of migratory birds.


- El Imposible National Park Slideshow
- Slideshow script
- Conservation Coffee Summary
- CD or cassette of bird calls or bird music
- Chairs


  1. Give a mini-lecture on migratory birds.
  2. Address the reasons why birds migrate (food, climate, shelter).
  3. Give mini-lecture on coffee production in the El Salvador rainforest.
  4. Provide information of sun and shade coffee growing practices, who's using what and why. (For more background information, see Conservation Coffee Summary)
  5. Activity: Migrating Birds (a take off of musical chairs): In this rendition of musical chairs, students will role play as birds and each chair will represent a tree. Set up:
    1. Bunch up a large number of chairs, enough for each student to have a seat.
    2. Have a CD or cassette of bird calls or other bird music.

    Round 1:
    1. Have students stand together as if they were a flock of birds getting ready to fly south for the winter.
    2. Play bird calls and tell the students to migrate to the rainforest (a chair).
    3. Once every student is seated, ask them what they think the chairs symbolize.
    The goal is for students to understand that the rainforest is much more than just a bunch of trees; it provides shelter, food, oxygen, etc., not only to the birds but to the other animals and indigenous people that live among the rainforest canopy.

    Round 2:
    1. Take several of the chairs and set them upside down on the outskirts of the inner bunch.
    2. Start the music again and initiate another mock migration. A number of students should be without a chair (without a tree, without a home, without protection, etc.).
    3. Debrief and ask them what the overturned chairs represent. (Deforestation for coffee production and other threats to rainforests.)
    4. Continue until students clearly understand the benefits of conserving the forest.
    5. Discuss the benefits of shade-grown coffee. By cultivating coffee underneath the shade of trees, the forest remains intact not only to migrating birds, but to the local people and animals that live there and depend on its resources year round.

Step 3A -- Practice (Math and Learning Centers)

Step 3

Challenge 1

Students will discover the distances that many birds fly in order to find food and shelter in the rainforest canopy. These distances will be translated to a determined scale and presented visually.


- Research tools: bird books, maps, Internet, etc.
- Chalk

Procedure 1

  1. In groups of two or three, students will pick one local migratory bird to study. Using a variety of resources (books, maps and the internet), students will calculate the mileage and through what states and countries their bird travels from start to finish during migration.
  2. After the mileage has been estimated, students will come up with a standard scale to represent their calculations. For example: 100 miles = 1 foot.
  3. Space and weather permitting, all groups will create their own 'Bird Migration Map' on the playground using chalk. Each map will include a scale and a visual representation of where the bird takes off from and where it lands.

Challenge 2

Students will discover where the coffee in their neighborhood is made, how it is produced and by which method, sun or shade. The goal is for students to connect this information with the findings from the above challenge in order to grasp the importance of conserving rainforest habitat for migratory birds and all living things (i.e. trees, animals, insects, humans)..


- Coffee labels

Procedure 2

  1. Students will trace the origins of coffee sold or used in their neighborhood by looking at labels at home and/or in stores.
  2. Then, groups will research if the coffee is grown with sun or shade practices depending on the region in which it came from and information provided by the label.

Step 3B -- Create (Performance Tasks Related to Standard Indicators)


Students will ask their parents or local store owners to buy shade-grown as opposed to sun grown coffee.


- Migratory information from Step 3A
- Paper


Students will design brochures for parents or local store owners trying to convince them to sell or buy shade-grown coffee. Brochures should include migratory bird information from the first challenge and coffee research from the second challenge.


Step 4 -- Present (Edit Work/Students Present Projects)


Students will practice public speaking.


- Brochures from Step 3B


Students will distribute brochures and read them to the class.

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.

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