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Third Grade, Lesson 3: If the Forest Could Talk

Third Grade, Lesson 3: If the Forest Could Talk


Insects are essential elements of any ecosystem as they serve as pollinators for plants. Insects may be regarded as a nuisance to humans, but if they all disappeared every ecosystem would feel the impact of this loss.

Essential Question 

What if the forest could talk?

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

Step 1


Students identify one of the essential elements from their environment that must be protected in order to maintain the effective balance of the ecosystem. Insects are critical to the survival of many ecosystems.


- Internet access or insect field guides
- Poster paper
- Art supplies


  1. Students research different pollinating insects that live in their local environment on the Internet or field guide books. For example, bees work to pollinate plants that provide essential botanical species within certain areas. Bees may be necessary for the production of honey or for certain vegetables in gardens.
  2. Students create posters that describe their insect and show its connection to plants in their area.
  3. Have students identify how the insects may interact by sharing plants or insuring that a food source is present for another insect.
  4. Display the posters.
  5. Remove one of the insects at a time and discuss the impact this might have on the environment, especially on the types of plant and animal life (vegetable gardens and honey producers) that live in the area.
  6. Identify which plants and animals would have to move to another location or would die as a result of the changes on insect life.
  7. Discuss what other changes might affect plants and animals that children have identified, for example, changes in rainfall or temperature.


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


Students find out what changes in the Ecuadorian landscape will impact the productivity of cacao trees.


- Book: The Story of Chocolate, by DK Publishing
- Paper, pencils


  1. Read aloud: The Story of Chocolate, by DK Publishing
  2. Read the From the Bean to the Bar: Chocolate Slideshow, available from the Resource Index, to take a delicious journey that follows the production of a chocolate bar from the bean to your supermarket.
  3. Discuss with students the interaction of different elements in the rainforest environment and how these might impact the growth and productivity of cacao plants.
  4. Have students research the growth cycle and conditions of the cacao plant.
  5. Draw a diagram of the cocoa growth cycle and conditions answering the questions: - How much water does a plant need in a year? - What kind of soil is best? - Do plants grow better in shade or in full sun? - What pollinators come to cacao plants? - What is missing from cocoa farms that occur naturally in the forest? - What birds use the cacao plant for shelter or food?

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


Students calculate the ratio of chocolate to the productivity of cacao plants and their farmers.


- Research tools (Internet, encyclopedia)
- Paper, pencils


Students research how many cocoa beans are produced on one cacao plant.

  1. Calculate how many beans are necessary for one pound of chocolate.
  2. Calculate how many cacao plants are necessary to supply the chocolate consumed by one student over a week, a month and a year. (Students will have to keep a record on their chocolate consumption and estimate the weight in pounds.)
  3. If a cacao plant takes up X amount of room, how big would a field of cacao plants have to be to supply chocolate to your class?
  4. Estimate how heavy a bag that carries the number of cocoa beans for one pound of chocolate is.
  5. Figure out how many pounds a worker in a cocoa field would have to carry in order to supply a pound of chocolate for a student.

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


Students will understand how their supermarket habits impact the communities of people like the Chachi in Ecuador.


- Art supplies
- Paper


  1. Students will create a mock store that sells chocolate of different kinds.
  2. Each student in the class will design a package for their chocolate product that shows the amount/weight of the chocolate and lists all the "ingredients" necessary to grow chocolate, or cocoa beans. For example: What insects are necessary, how much rainfall, how much land is required for the number of plants to produce the right amount of beans, etc.
  3. Each label will be illustrated with a picture that shows (either with a map or a drawing) where the cacao plant grows and how it is related to the rainforest in Ghana.
  4. Students will draw posters for their "store" that advertise shade grown versus full sun/plantation cocoa and list at the bottom the benefits and problems with each approach to farming.

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


Students have a mock open house for their store and advertise their 'products' to other students.


- Chocolate labels from Step 3B


  1. Students organize their packaging by setting up a mock chocolate store for other students to visit.
  2. Students write and present commercials/advertisements for their products that they present orally/dramatically in front of the class.

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

Third Grade Resources

Species Profiles

Rainforest Posters

  • Inside the Canopy [PDF] – Structure and species of the rainforest
  • Status Report [PDF] – What is happening to the rainforest

Additional Resources

  • Terrarium Instructions [PDF]
  • Rainforest Products
  • Teacher summary [PDF] – The Rainforest Alliance Learning Site provides a downloadable overview of cocoa farmers in Ghana with useful information to introduce you to the lesson topic.
  • Certificate of Accomplishment [PDF]

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