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First Grade, Lesson 3: How does the survival of jaguars and howler monkeys in Belize depend on us?

First Grade, Lesson 3: How does the survival of jaguars and howler monkeys in Be


Forests that line the rivers within a watershed play an important role in keeping waterways healthy, safe and comfortable for animals and people.

Essential Question 

How does the weather (particularly the amount of rain) link the jaguar and howler monkey with the manatee and the loggerhead turtle?

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

Step 1


Identify the ways that weather can change landscapes. By simulating an upstream flood, children will understand why rivers get muddy and murky in downstream coastal habitats. This will help them understand how Manny's home was affected by erosion.


- Book: The Magic School Bus: At the Waterworks, by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen
- Map of local watershed (available through the Environmental Protection Agency) -- Simulated watershed system: 3" high baking pan, dirt and clean water


  1. Discuss where the water in the school faucets originates. Sources of water are often a great distance away from the faucet. The manatee and loggerhead swim in water that originates far from their home, which means that upstream activity around rivers can affect the health and safety of downstream water-dwelling species.
  2. Read The Magic School Bus: At the Waterworks, by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen.
  3. Show the students a map of their watershed. Trace the route your drinking water takes as it travels the course of the watershed and comes out in the school faucets.
  4. Discuss how water picks up loose materials as it moves.
  5. Show students how water picks up materials along the riverway by creating a simulated watershed in a classroom or play space. Fill a 3" high baking pan with dirt. Sculpt the dirt into a landscape that roughly simulates a downward incline to the ocean from hills. Have students take a sample of the clean water at the start and compare it to the murky water that lands in a pool at the end of the waterway.
  6. Discuss how the trees on a riverbank can affect changes in water quality with large amounts of moving water. (You could simulate another environment using pieces of sod to stabilize the riverbank). This will show students how rooted plants lining a river hold in soil. Ask them to compare the results in water clarity to the previous experiment. Or, do both experiments outside using two different sites in the schoolyard and have students describe the differences.

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


Students discover the habitat of the jaguar and the howling monkey. They begin to conceptualize how life for the jaguar and monkey is tied to the manatee and loggerhead and ways that it is similar to their watershed.


- Video: A Walk in the Rainforest available from Bullfrog Films
- Book: At Home in the Rain Forest, by Diane Willow and Laura Jacques
- Book: Here is the Tropical Rain Forest, by Madeleine Dunphy
- Species profiles: jaguar and howler monkey


  1. Show students A Walk in the Rainforest available from Bullfrog Films. In this video, an 8 year-old boy takes his friends on a tour of a rainforest in Belize. The video portrays a variety of plants and animals that live there.
  2. Read At Home in the Rain Forest, by Diane Willow and Laura Jacques. This story describes the sights and sounds of the rainforest, introducing the reader to the plants and animals that inhabit this precious ecosystem.
  3. Read Here is the Tropical Rain Forest, by Madeleine Dunphy. This story has a cumulative text, taking the reader on a journey through the rainforest from the mossy forest floor up to the emergent layer at the top.
  4. Show students the species profiles of the jaguar and the howler monkey. Describe where they live in the rainforest (i.e. the canopy, understory, forest floor) and discuss their relationship with the river or watershed.
  5. Make comparisons to how these four species use and live within the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor. Remind students of how their watershed is similar. What effect would erosion have on the jaguar and monkey in the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor compared to the manatee and the loggerhead at the mouth of the River?
  6. Look at the Rainforest Alliance Adopt-A-Rainforest pages about Belize that discusses threats to the environmentally important Maya Mountain Marine Corridor and efforts to protect it.
  7. Additional References: Nature's Green Umbrella, by Gail Gibbons

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


Students carry out a number of comparisons to judge how muddy the water at the end of their simulated watershed is when lined with sod or just dirt.


- Simulated watershed system from Step 1
- Sod
- Dirt


  1. Using the simulated watershed system, one with sod and the other bare dirt, create a chart that gives indicators of muddiness. Have students name the various gradations and align them with the health of the water for living species, including the manatee and turtle.
  2. Collect water samples from each 'watershed' after a bucket of water has been poured down. Match the samples with the chart of muddiness.
  3. Annotate the samples with gradations of "healthy for land animals" or "healthy for water animals."

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


Students are challenged to research the four different species highlighted in this unit and write a story from the perspective of each one regarding the watershed and how important it is to their livelihood.


- Paper
- Art Supplies


  1. Students draw pictures of themselves using water and write one or two sentences about how important water is to their lives.
  2. Students draw pictures of the different species using the water source and write one or two sentences on how important the water is to their lives.

Step 4 -- Present


Students will each begin to compile a book called The Rainforest and Me. In this will go their maps of local place and Belize as well as the new information on water sources.

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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