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Rainforests - Why is the Amazon important? Classroom resources



Through the video students are introduced to the Amazon rainforest, its importance to the world, and why it needs protecting.

Key Issues

- Rainforests
- Climate change
- Biodiversity
- Products found in rainforests (food, medicines and others)
- Deforestation
- Indigenous people


The Amazon rainforest is one of the most important ecosystems in the world and covers approximately 5,500,000km2. It is crucial to our climate and helps limit the extent and worst consequences of global warming. The forest acts like an enormous air conditioner and cools the whole planet by 1-2°C as well as helping to control rainfall and humidity in several parts of the world. The trees in the Amazon rainforest are thought to absorb over 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Deforestation not only reduces this capacity but also releases additional carbon dioxide.  Many modern medicines originate from plants found in the Amazon and yet scientists estimate that only 1% of all medicinal plants that exist in the Amazon have been found. Deforestation could be destroying cures we don’t even know exist yet. It is also home to some of the most isolated human societies anywhere in the world.



Starter Activities

  What products do we get from rainforests? Show a series of products including chocolate (cocoa), tyres (rubber), spices, medicines, sugar. Examples here.
  Picture reveal showing activities putting the Amazon and other forests at risk (e.g. logging, ranching, soya bean farms, roads and mining activities) and ask why these activities are happening in the Amazon.


Enquiry Questions

 - What would happen to our climate if the Amazon rainforest disappeared?
 - Should we protect an area just because of what we think might be there and may be found in the future?
 - The Amazon rainforest is a huge potential economic resource for Brazil. Why should they be allowed to develop it in any way they want? (see worksheet for a question on building dams)

Lesson Activities

The video throws up a number of different issues and could be incorporated into a variety of main lesson activities. Here are a few examples:

  • Identify and describe the main features of the rainforest biome and use the diagram pack to explain why the Amazon is being cut down.
  • Use the Worksheet to explore the difficult decisions about conservation and development.  How can we use the forest without losing it?
  • Use diagram pack to produce posters explaining the importance of the Amazon and explaining some of consequences of deforestation.
  • Creative writing: imagine you are an Amazonian Indian living in the forest. Describe the development of the Amazon, the benefits, threats and changes to your way of life.
  • Compare the importance of the Amazon rainforest to other major biomes/ecosystems e.g. East African savannah, Arctic permafrost etc.


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