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Sixth Grade, Lesson 2: Whose Breakfast Isn't for the Birds?

Sixth Grade, Lesson 2: Whose Breakfast Isn't for the Birds?


Coffee plants are grown in the same habitats required by many birds. Rainforests, temperate forests and the landscapes that link them must be carefully managed in order to ensure the survival of migratory birds.

Essential Question 

Whose breakfast isn't for the birds?


  1. Students will create, administer and analyze a survey designed to ascertain respondents' understanding of where coffee comes from and their preferred types of coffee.
  2. Students will research natural histories of different coffee types.
  3. Students will compare migratory bird habitat with locations of coffee farming.
  4. Students will write and send a letter to a coffee drinkers illustrating the connection between their coffee, tropical forests and bird habitat.

Informational Introduction for the Teacher

In this lesson, students generate first-hand knowledge about the types of coffee preferred by members of their school community. They use survey data as a springboard for examining coffee production and its relation to birds. Students consider the amount of coffee consumed in the United States, where it is grown, range of rainforests in the tropics and locations of bird migration routes. Finally, students write letters to coffee correspondents illustrating the connection of their favorite coffee type with birds and rainforests.

Informational Introduction for the Students

The United States is the world's largest consumer of coffee. More than half of the United States population drinks coffee daily. Where does this coffee come from? Where is the nearest coffee farm? What does it have to do with birds? By surveying some coffee drinkers, we will find out what people know about where their morning cup comes from and research how coffee is connected to rainforests and migratory bird populations. Finally, we will offer them expert information on their drink of choice so that they might become more aware of some of the impacts of drinking coffee, and know what they can do to preserve bird habitat.

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

Step 1


Students develop, disseminate and analyze a survey on the particular types of coffee preferred by their teachers, school staff, and parents.


- Paper
- Writing utensils


  1. Tell students they will be creating a survey for coffee drinkers to determine their knowledge about the drink and which types of coffee teachers, school staff and parents prefer.
  2. Lead students in a discussion of the possible questions to investigate through the survey. Brainstorm possibilities. Some questions to pursue may include:
    • What are the most popular types of coffee?
    • Do coffee drinkers know where their coffee comes from?
    • Are coffee drinkers aware of the different types of coffee (sun coffee and shade-grown)?
    • Do coffee drinkers know the benefits of shade-grown coffee?
  3. Offer students a variety of survey techniques. Some examples are listed below.
    Open Ended:

    - What country does your coffee come from?
    - How does growing coffee affect the environment?
    - Where does most coffee come from?
    Likert Scale:

    1=Well informed, 2=Somewhat informed, 3=Little knowledge, 4=Don't know at all

    - How knowledgeable are you about where your coffee comes from?
    - How knowledgeable are you about the different varieties of coffee?
    - How knowledgeable are you about shade grown coffee
    Fixed Answers:

    Check the space next to all of the words that describe the coffee you drink.

    __ Costa Rican
    __ Colombian
    __ Brazilian
    __ Kenyan
    __ Kona
    __ Indonesian

      __ Shade Grown
    __ Sun Coffee
    __ Flavored
    __ Organic
    __ Other (please specify ___________)
    __ Indian

    Coffee grows best in areas near the equator.
    Shade-grown coffee techniques can help migratory birds.

  4. Ask students which survey they think will be most effective in finding the information they desire.
  5. Have students develop a list of questions to include in the survey.
  6. Assist students in designing the survey.
  7. After students survey teachers, staff and parents, compile the data.
  8. Ask students to generate a list of most popular coffee types.
  9. Engage students in a follow up discussion about their survey. Ask questions:
    • How knowledgeable were the respondents about where their coffee comes from?
    • How might informing people about the origins of coffee and the effects on the environment change things?
    • Do you think it's important that people know where their coffee comes from?
    • Why or why not?

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


Students research the history of coffee grown in one of the Latin American coffees preferred by one of their survey respondents. They will use this information during Step 4 to write and send a letter to this person regarding the implications of their coffee preference on the lives of migratory birds.


- Survey results from Step 1
- World atlas
- Rainforest Alliance supporting materials
- Computers with Internet access


  1. Challenge students to use one of their survey respondent's answers and research the natural history of this type of coffee. Have students focus on the Latin American coffee types. For example, if the respondent checked "Costa Rican" and "Sun Coffee," challenge the student to research the Costa Rican rainforest areas, the specifics of coffee beans from Costa Rica (flavor, aroma, etc.), coffee farming in Costa Rica, and the possible environmental impacts of sun coffee farming. Helpful Internet Resources:
  2. Have students compile their data. Tell students they will be using their research later in the lesson when they will write a letter to survey respondents about their favorite coffee.

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


Through a series of guided calculations, students develop a sense of survey respondent knowledge of coffee, how much coffee is grown in rainforests, and the impact of coffee farming techniques on migratory birds.


- Paper
- Writing utensils


Challenge students to complete the calculations and answer the related questions.

  1. One acre of rainforest land can produce about 1,000 pounds of shade-grown coffee in a year. If the United States imports 2.5 million pounds of coffee in a year, how many acres of rainforest land is needed?
  2. The average American drinks 3.4 cups of coffee per day. If half of the United States population drinks this amount, how many cups does that equal? If half of the world's population drank the same amount, how many cups would that equal?
  3. How many acres of rainforest would be needed to satisfy the world's coffee consumption if half of the people on earth drank 3.4 cups per day?
  4. Create a graph illustrating some aspect of the class survey data. Use one of the following formats: Pie chart of the most popular coffee types chosen, bar graph of the amount of knowledge people said they had about their coffee, chart depicting which countries are most preferred for their coffee beans.

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


Students draw a map of North, Central and South America and illustrate the relationship between coffee production, coffee consumption and bird migration.


- World maps for each student, with countries outlined
- Colored pencils
- World atlas for reference
- Field guides of North American birds
- Rainforest poster (available in the Resource Index)


  1. Hand out several world atlas references.
  2. Challenge students to draw a large map of North, Central and South America, including outlines of countries.
  3. On their respective maps, challenge students to identify:
    1. Countries containing rainforest;
    2. Countries exporting coffee;
    3. Major bird migration routes of a common North American migratory bird. Have students use color to illustrate rainforest range and countries.
  4. Challenge students to discuss the meaning of their maps. Ask the following questions:
    • How does your map illustrate a connection between coffee production and migratory birds?
    • Who might find this information valuable?
    • Why?

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


Each student selects one teacher, school staff member or parent to write and send a letter to highlighting the complex connection between coffee production, consumption, migratory birds and the health of temperate and tropical rainforests.


- Map from Step 3B
- Calculations from step 3A


  1. Tell students that they will be writing a letter to their survey respondent in order to inform them about their choice of coffee and how it is related to migratory bird winter range, rainforests and temperate forests.
  2. Challenge students to include the research discovered in Step 2, the calculations determined in Step 3A and the map created in Step 3B to explain the key connections for the coffee drinker receiving the letter.

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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