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Second Grade, Lesson 2: Independence and Conservation

Second Grade, Lesson 2: Independence and Conservation


Things change in all environments. The impact of one loss or disturbance may not be visible until the rate of change and impact on diversity threatens the habitat of a particular species so much that their food source, shelter, health or safety disappears. What is the critical threshold?

Essential Question 

Does it all collapse when one block is pulled out?

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


Students identify what they need to live within their present environment and what might happen if those things were absent.


- Art/drawing supplies
- Large drawing paper or posterboard (One for each student or group of students)
- Old magazines; other sources of pictures


  1. Students draw pictures of themselves in the middle of a page. Using magazines or other sources of pictures, they attach pictures of the things that they need to survive (food, shelter, transportation, friends, clothes, etc.).
  2. Ask students to write a 'What if?' story that places them in the rainforest where they have to find food, shelter, safety, transportation, etc. How will it be different than what they describe in their pictures of home? What might they eat? Where might they live? How would they make themselves safe? How would they have to move through the forest (would their bicycles work there)?

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


Students realize that it is difficult to change environments without making important adaptations. They understand that keeping all the important ingredients to survival intact and working well is important to the survival of all species.


- Book: The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer


  1. Read the book The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer. Discuss the reasons the salamander couldn't live with the boy, including their different needs for food, climate and habitat.
  2. Explain that most of the plant and animal species that live in the rainforest are specifically adapted to where they live. If rainforests disappeared, so would they.

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

Step 3


Students will understand 'tipping points' in an environment.


- Jenga or similar block-stacking game (one set per group of students)
- White label stickers or small rainforest photos (for Jenga blocks)
- Glue


  1. Ask students to compare the boy's experiment with the salamander to a game of Jenga.
  2. Have students draw pictures of the different parts of the rainforest that they identified in the previous activity on the Jenga pieces, or label them with words like hot temperatures, humidity, tall trees, vines, tapirs, snakes, insects, etc.
  3. Construct a rainforest tower of labeled Jenga blocks. Taking out one at a time, make guesses about how many will have to be pulled out to make the tower fall. Ask the following questions: How do the parts rely on each other? What happens when one part is removed? Why can some pieces be removed without causing problems?
  4. To play Jenga with students, start with the wooden blocks stacked as a tight tower. Ask students to remove pieces from the bottom of the tower and stack them on top. Keep stacking until the tower collapses. Discuss the game with the class. Ask students: Why can't we keep building higher? How is the system different at the beginning? What is the benefit of the original structure?

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


Students understand that a system needs all of its parts to work effectively.


- Labeled Jenga pieces from Step 3A
- Drawing paper
- Drawing /coloring utensils


  1. Using the list of plants and animals essential to the rainforest created for the Jenga blocks, create a drawing or diorama of a working rainforest.


Step 4 -- Present

Students present their rainforests to the rest of the class and explain how the elements included are connected to each other.

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

Second Grade Resources

Living in the Amazon Forest Slideshow

A slideshow and script about Brazil that includes background information about the animals, people and landscape of this region. The slideshow can be viewed online in the classroom, or printed out and read as a story.

Unit-Specific Story

Nelson’s Journey through the Amazon

Species Profiles

Profiles include: photos and information on habitat, foraging behavior, group relationships, threats, etc.

Teacher Summary

An overview of Boa Vista do Ramos in Brazil with useful information to introduce you to the lesson topic.

Rainforest Poster

A colorful two-page poster that helps explain the layers of the rainforest, its products and the environmental threats facing many rainforests around the world.

Rainforest Products

A round-up of everyday products that come from the rainforest.

The Oficina Escola de Lutheria da Amazônia (OELA)

Check out the Adopt-A-Rainforest pages for more information about the Rainforest Alliance's partner group in Brazil.

Profiles in Sustainability

Case studies of companies that work closely with the Rainforest Alliance to ensure that their practices protect wildlife, workers and communities.

Venn Diagram Template

A photocopy-ready Venn diagram for use in this unit.

Brazil's Amazon Rainforest Rainfall Data

PDF of rainfall data

Certificate of Accomplishment

Print out colorful rainforest certificates for your students to commemorate their completion of these units.

Resource Index

Supplemental materials to accompany these dynamic units.

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