Fourth Grade, Lesson 1: What Would Halloween be Like Without the Ecuadorian Rainforest?
Rainforests are home to an extraordinary number of plant types, including some of our favorite foods. Students will understand that food comes from far away places and, as a result, has hidden costs associated with its production. Students will understand the relationship between farming practices and the environment that surrounds farms. Students will research sustainable practices of cocoa farming that help protect the quality of environments while producing essential ingredients for food products. Students will understand the work of conservation research teams who work to assure quality of life for humans and other species.
What would Halloween be like without the Ecuadorian rainforest?
Informational Introduction for the Teacher
This lesson guides students in an exploration of sustainable agricultural practices directly related to the lives of people living in the rainforest. The connection is made through chocolate and cocoa farming. By engaging students in a study of the origins of chocolate, we will introduce the impact of increased need/want for chocolate on the environment where it is grown and species that surround those farms. The unit focuses specifically on the Chachi people, who protect their forest from destruction by sustainably harvesting cocoa. The Chachi participate with the Rainforest Alliance in developing sustainable farming techniques that conserve the rainforest while providing the local people with a means for earning an income.
Informational Introduction for the Students
Go into almost any backpack in your school and you will find empty chocolate wrappers or chocolate treats waiting to be eaten. Chocolate is a favorite candy of American children and children all over the world. Halloween is a holiday that increases the sale of chocolate. Where does all this chocolate come from? Who produces the ingredients for this treat? As the desire for more chocolate increases, farming of chocolate increases. What effect does chocolate farming have on the landscape, the people and the different animals that live around those farms? What happens when trees are cut down in an area that is rich in biodiversity and replaced with farms that grow only cocoa plants? How might these changes affect our lives so far away?
Step 1 -- Connect (The Concept to Prior Knowledge)
Students are given a number of typical Halloween treats and work in groups to determine which foods came from the rainforest (chocolate) and which foods came from temperate regions (apples, popcorn). Students examine ingredient lists on candy wrappers and brainstorm the origin of these food items. After creating two groups, students imagine what Halloween would be like without chocolate.
- Chocolate candies
- Temperate regional sweets (honey, popcorn, fruit)
- Paper, pencils
- Teachers will need to gather enough chocolate candies and temperate regional sweet food (honey, popcorn, fruit) to divide among students.
- Divide the class into small groups (3 - 4) and have them make columns on large sheets of paper headed by each candy item.
- Reading the ingredients, have students list the ingredients under each candy type.
- Have students make guesses about where these items originate.
Step 2 -- Literature/Discuss (Give Expert Information Book; Ask Questions)
Students will discover the wide range of places that supply ingredients for simple candies.
- Internet access
- Charts from Step 1
- Ecuador slideshow
- From the Bean to the Bar: Chocolate Slideshow, to take a delicious journey that follows the production of a chocolate bar from the rainforest to your supermarket
- Sweets from Step 1
- To learn more about food origins, have students do an Internet search on the ingredients of one chocolate and one non-chocolate candy.
- Using the large charts with their 'guesses,' students list the origin of the food ingredients next to the guesses made on their charts.
- To learn more about chocolate food origins, students view a slideshow about Ecuador and how chocolate is grown and follow the production line from the bean to the chocolate bar.
- Students note which foods come from tropical rainforest areas and revisit their original treats, reconsider their group choices, and identify which ones would not exist if rainforests disappeared.
Step 3A -- Practice (Math and Learning Centers)
Students will compare and contrast the origins of the ingredients in their candy choices and calculate the expense of its travel to their desks. They will choose a candy that traveled the least number of miles and one that traveled the most number of miles.
- Paper, pencils
- Art supplies
- Students create maps on large sheets of paper illustrating the origins of their treats marking whether they are local or exotic in origin and highlighting the distance between their home and the farms.
- Students calculate the total miles it took for their Halloween treats to get from the farms where they were grown to their bags.
- Students multiply the number of miles by .38 to calculate a rough cost for this travel in dollars. Mark this expense on the maps.
- Students compare and contrast the miles and the expense of each item.
Step 3B -- Create (Performance Tasks Related to Standard Indicators)
Students create a bag of treats from local areas and compare it to the typical Halloween treats they receive.
- Paper, pencils
- Treats from local and tropical areas
- Students create a bag of treats that are designated as 'local' in origin.
- Students write a paragraph that describes the impact of the different treats on the environment. Students should refer to the distance and resulting expense to transport local treats and compare these distance/cost amounts to the chocolate candies.
- Students write a short story that relates the 'life' of a chocolate candy tracing its origins and production. Because chocolate usually doesn't grow in temperate zones, ask the children to comment on chocolate that is grown sustainably and chocolate that may damage the long-term health of a tropical place of origin.
- Students create a new 'origins' label for candy that states/relates the real cost of a candy that comes from a tropical location. Reference to sustainable production versus non-sustainable production should appear on the labels.
Step 4 -- Present (Edit Work/Students Present Projects)
Students invite other students and teachers to 'trick or treat' in their classroom. Students explain the difference between the treats highlighting the different plants growing in tropical rainforests and temperate areas.
- Labels from Step 3B
- Students attach new labels to candy that comes from distant places so that visiting students can read the story of its production.
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. 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. 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.
- Rainforest Alliance correlation to the Common Core State Standards for English language arts »
- Rainforest Alliance correlation to the Common Core State Standards for mathematics »
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fourth Grade Resources
- Fourth Grade Curriculum
- Chocolate Trees: All About Theobroma Cacao [PDF]
- Cocoa: The Food of the Gods infographic
- Ecuador Slideshow [PDF]
- Ecuador Slideshow script [PDF]
- Chocolate Slideshow [PDF]
- Romel's Rainforest Home [PDF]
- El Hogar de Romel en el Bosque Tropical [PDF]
- Romel e seu Lar na Floresta [PDF]