The Great Kapok Tree
by Lynne Cherry

Grade Level:   K - 7

Purpose:  The Great Kapok Tree is a great tale of conservation.  IT also emphasizes the importance of rain forests and their natural resources and scarcity.  After reading the story, students will center on the controversy of destroying the rain forest or conserving it.

Geography Standards Addressed:
 #4:  The physical and human characteristics of places.
 #14:  How human actions modify the physical environment.

Indiana Social Studies Academic Standards Addressed:
Social Studies:  7.4.8; 7.3.16; 7.3.1; 7.2.9
Science:  7.4.7; 7.4.8


 Upon completion of this lesson/activity, students will be able to…
  1. locate the rainforests of the world.
  2. understand importance of natural resources
  3. make an informed decision about rainforest destruction.
  1. Introduce the story by discussing the location of the Amazon rain forest and list some known animals and natural resources that live or come from the rain forest.
  2. Read the story.
  3. After the story, divide the class into three groups…

  4. -Cutting trees with NO regulations
    -Cutting trees with some regulations
    -No cutting of trees at all
  5. Have the students research various web sites and other mediums to find information for their group to prepare for the debate. It is very important to include the economic impact of all three groups.
  6. The students will debate for or against the destruction of the rain forest using the information they have found.
  7. After/during the debates, list the pros and cons for each of the three.  When the debates are finished; discuss which, if any, the best alternative is.
  8. As an assignment, the students should map the world’s rain forest regions using their atlas for assistance.
Key Questions:
  1. What are the natural resources of the Amazon rain forest?  (various plants, trees, rivers and streams, etc.  Gifts of nature)
  2. Is the rain forest becoming scarce?  If so, why? How can it be controlled or stopped?  (yes, because of uncontrolled clearing of trees.  Trees can be replanted, government regulations, penalties, etc.)
  3. What are some products or goods that come from the rain forest?  (woods – mahogany, teak; house plants; fruits; oils; medicines; spices; fibers; vegetables and other foods; etc)
  4. How does global interdependence play a role in the rain forest?  (Other countries can put pressure on the countries where rain forests are located to slow down the destruction; awareness groups, education…)
  5. What are other ways to practice conservation?  (recycle, reduce, shutting of the water when brushing teeth, shorter showers….)
  6. What are some opportunity costs of clearing the rain forest?  (Possible answers might include… destruction of animals’ homes, clearing of trees, which in turn could contribute to the greenhouse effect, might destroy future cures in medicine, etc…)But people of the area need land to plant food, live, the wood in valuable; the animals are valuable, etc.
The students shall be evaluated by their contribution to the debate and their  research skills and the completed rain forest map.

Follow-up Activities/Extensions:

  1. Research different products that originate in the rain forest.
  2. Have the students act out the animals of the story as you read.
  3. Field trip:  Go to the rain forest exhibit at the Indianapolis Zoo or Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.
  4. Raise money to purchase an acre of rainforest to protect it from further destruction.
  5. Read other rain forest books…

  6. One Day in the Tropical Rain Forest by Jean Craighead George
    A Walk in the Rain Forest by Kristin Joy Pratt
    Amazon Adventure by Larry Bishof
    Amazon Alphabet by Martin and Tanis Jordon