Sixth Grade, Lesson 3: How Can My Breakfast Help the Birds?
Our food choices may have an impact on rainforests. Sun-Grown coffee farming destroys essential bird habitat in rainforest areas.
How can my breakfast help the birds?
- Students will rank several pictures of farms based on conservation of bird habitat.
- Students will research sustainable coffee farming techniques with conservation of bird habitat in mind.
- Students will design two farms with sustainability of bird habitats in mind.
- Students will send their farm designs to the Rainforest Alliance and the local agricultural cooperative for comment.
Informational Introduction for the Teacher
This lesson guides students in an exploration of sustainable agriculture and its relation to bird habitat. First, students rank pictures of corn and coffee farms according to bird habitat conservation. Next, students research different coffee farming techniques and their relation to bird habitat. Students design and create maps of ideal farms to maximize both crop production and bird habitat conservation. Finally, students send farm designs to the Rainforest Alliance and the local agricultural cooperative for review.
Informational Introduction for the Students
Go to any diner for breakfast and the first thing you hear from the waiter or waitress is "Would you like coffee this morning?" Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world. The beans are typically grown in areas of tropical rainforest. This form of agriculture can be damaging to migratory bird habitat. In this lesson, we will investigate the different types of coffee farming and compare them to what we know about agriculture in the United States. Our investigation will include research of different farm types and designing the ideal coffee farm. Our designs will be sent to experts in the field for review.
Step 1 -- Connect (The Concept to Prior Knowledge)
Students work in small groups to rank pictures of 10 different coffee and corn farms according to what they think is in the best interest of a variety of birds.
- Pictures of farms (one set for each group) -- Shade-grown coffee farm photos available from the Rainforest Alliance
- Divide class into groups of three or four.
- Hand out a group of pictures to each group.
- Challenge students to rank the pictures according to what they think is best for birds. For example, they might begin by finding the farm with the most trees or the farm they think could support the most diverse and abundant bird life.
- When students have completed their ranking, ask them to explain why they chose to rank the farms the way they did.
Step 2 -- Literature/Discuss (Give Expert Information Book; Ask Questions)
Students read about shade-grown coffee and sustainable corn farming techniques and review a number of pictures depicting these farms. Students use this information to reevaluate the pictures they've ranked. They then interpret the advantages of a shade-grown coffee farm over sun coffee and conventional over sustainable farming techniques.
- Ranked pictures of farms from Step 1
- Computer with Internet access
- Tell students they will be investigating different types of coffee farms in order to reevaluate their ranking. Their goal is to compare their interpretations to the information at a number of Web-links about shade-grown coffee and other sustainable agriculture techniques.
- Guide students to the Web sites listed below:
- After students research the different farm types, invite them to make any changes to their rankings.
- When all changes have been made, ask groups to compare their rankings. If discrepancies arise, ask students to compare explain their ideas on which farm is better for birds.
Step 3A -- Practice (Math and Learning Centers)
Students carry out a number of mathematical calculations designed to illustrate the impact of various agricultural practices on bird populations.
- Writing utensils
Challenge students to complete the calculations and answer the related questions.
- Shade-grown coffee farms are typically home to 2/3rds of the normal bird life in a tropical rainforest. Sun coffee farms are typically home to 1/15th of the normal bird life in a tropical rainforest. If 225 bird species are typically found in an undisturbed rainforest, how many different types of birds would you expect to find in a shade-grown coffee farm?
- Using the same ratios from question 1, how many different types of birds would you expect to find in a sun coffee farm?
- How might this information be useful in conservation of bird habitat in tropical rainforests?
- How about temperate forests?
Step 3B -- Create (Performance Tasks Related to Standard Indicators)
Students design two farms with sustainability of bird habitats in mind. One farm is a corn farm in the eastern United States and the other is a coffee farm in El Salvador.
- Construction paper
- Art supplies
- World atlas
- Pictures of farms
- Challenge students to design two farms with sustainability of bird habitat in mind. One is a corn farm in the eastern United States and the other is a coffee farm in El Salvador. The goal of each ideal farm is to be able to grow crops and protect birds. Tell students they will be drawing maps of their farms and sending them to organizations for comment.
- Suggest to students they begin by creating a list of goals and practices designed to meet these goals. For example: Goal: Produce two varieties of coffee (Robusta and Arabica) while preserving bird food sources (i.e., insects). Practice: Grow Robusta plants in most shaded areas (it requires less specific conditions), Arabica in full sun and eliminate pesticide use. For ideas on farm practices, refer to Internet sites links listed above. Have students write these goals in a chart form to be included on the map of their farm.
- After students have completed their goals, hand out two large (11" x 14") pieces of paper and art supplies. Challenge students to create the ideal farm that will meet the goals they've created.
Step 4 -- Present (Edit Work/Students Present Projects)
Students send their farm designs to the Rainforest Alliance and/or the local agricultural cooperative for comment on their sustainability practices.
- Farm designs from step 3B
- Tell students they will be sending their farm designs to the Rainforest Alliance (an organization that works with farmers in Latin America to help them grow crops sustainably) and to the local agricultural cooperative for comment on their sustainability practices.
- Challenge students to compose a short letter of explanation to the Rainforest Alliance and agricultural cooperative describing their farm designs. The letter should include a description of the assignment, specific areas that the student would like comment on and any questions about agriculture, coffee and birds that they would like answered.
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.
Fifth and Sixth Grade Resources
- El Salvador Slideshow [PDF]
- El Salvador Slideshow Script [PDF]
- Coffee Slideshow [PDF]
- Alex Goes Exploring in El Imposible [PDF]
- Alex Explora El Imposible [PDF]
- Alex Explora o Parque Nacional O Impossível [PDF]
- Life in San Miguelito [PDF]
- La Vida en San Miguelito [PDF]
- A Vida em São Miguelito [PDF]
- Species Profiles
- Adopt-A-Rainforest: El Salvador Page
- Teacher Summary: El Imposible National Park, El Salvador [PDF]