What happens in the Amazon should never stay in the Amazon…and if the educators we worked with last summer are any indication, the Amazon is already spilling over its banks and into their classrooms, communities, and personal lives.
Our ten day immersion into tropical ecology, research, and culture gave all of us the chance to challenge ourselves, our assumptions, and our responsibilities. As educators we sought new knowledge and insights to inspire our teaching and motivate our students. As individuals, many of us wanted an adventure in a remote and wild part of the planet. For some it was an opportunity to rekindle a long lost passion. For others it was an opportunity to push beyond established comfort zones. Many found it a means to look at the world with a new set of eyes.
As educators, most of us had “taught” the rainforest at various points in our careers. Almost everyone acknowledged that it has become more and more difficult to include this engaging content in our instruction. As part of the privileged few who actually get to experience the Amazon first hand, we grappled with our personal and professional responsibilities.
In this age of high stakes testing, Next Generation Science Standards, and the Common Core, we pondered how to take what we experienced and make it relevant to our curricula, our classrooms, and our students. What bound us all together was the idea that rainforests are magical, wonderful, inspiring places and they deserve a place in our curriculum. Not because monkeys are fun and frogs are fabulous (they are!) but rather because rainforests hold the key to many of our most pressing environmental issues – including global climate change. Our students will be the ones that will tackle these issues and we need to prepare them. Inspired by our time in the Amazon, we returned home with a new perspective on “teaching” the rainforest and how the rainforest relates to instructional best practices, interdisciplinary and crosscutting concepts, and the core ideas of our respective disciplines. Although the strategies will be different for each of us, we are committed to supporting one another in our efforts.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION: Is the Amazon or the rainforest part of your curriculum? Need some inspiration? Check out this mindmap and then tell us how you can use rainforest topics to engage your students and meet the standards.