Topic outline

  • Summary

    The interdisciplinary environmental education project focusses on tropical rainforests and climate change. The project compromises learning activities around the ecosystem, its role in regard to climate change as well as social responsibility concerning a sustainable development.

  • Aims

    The aim of this case study is to promote students with all aspects of sustainable development in regard to the topic and to empower them to become responsible citizens in the future who could analyse and evaluate scientific problems critically.

  • Main activities

    The project is split into two main activities. It starts with a hands-on learning circle at a botanical garden followed by an E-Learning experience.

  • Involved actors

    Teachers and Researchers

  • Connection with the curriculum

    Biology and Geography

  • Where to find the application or case

    The hands-on circle will be available at the botanical garden of the University of Bayreuth. The E-Learning content can be found on:

  • Content

    Hot humid climate surrounds the students who enter the Greenhouse in the botanical garden. Glasses are fogging, the air smells of wet mulch, big leaves strives the arms while students follow their ears to a small stream next to a cocoa tree. This short impression shows the authenticity of the botanical garden as learning environment. Students encounter the climatic conditions as well as a selected variety of plants during this course. They don’t learn theoretically what environmental factors occur in the tropics, but they feel and measure them by themselves. During the project students facilitate small experiments in order to learn about the ecosystem rainforest, the adaptation of plants and the anthropogenic interference. The learning circle compromises five obligate and one facultative learning unit. As superficially mentioned before, students explore the environmental conditions of the ecosystem. They measure the climatic conditions by themselves and learn to distinguish biotic and abiotic factors.  They analyse the importance of the several factors for the life of tropical plants. While they learn about the sublevel stopping of the rainforest they recognize that on different levels different factors are occurring which lead to different morphologies of plants. Reversely students examine plants to decide under which environmental conditions they grow. In this framework, students encounter animal-plant interactions and learn to distinguish the different forms of biotic factors. Additionally they learn to formulate hypothesis and how to verify their ideas. In regard to education for sustainable development students are confronted with products from their daily life. They learn to recognize which products have a tropical origin and which labelling tricks are used by industry to conceal it. Furthermore the problematic of inequality between peasants and entrepreneurs is emphasised. Students inform themselves about the different social labels in order to find their way through the label-jungle. Moreover students work out the connections between tropical rainforest, carbon repositories, deforestation and climate change. While understanding the importance of rainforests in regard to climatic conditions in Europe students find other arguments why rainforests should become conserved. During the eLearning unit students will use original data from Ecuador derived from a DFG project in order to learn more about the real climatic conditions in rainforests. They compare it to the climate in Bayreuth and carve out the differences between daytime climate and seasons. Beyond this they analyse their own contribution to climate change and propose strategies for a sustainable climate development.

  • Relation to a green topic and curriculum

    The tropical rainforests as the ecosystem that includes the highest biodiversity on land is an important green topic in itself. It provides valuable examples for biotic and abiotic factors which are mandatory to be taught in secondary school (grade 6 and 10).

  • Being interdisciplinary: Drawing upon many academic disciplines and teaching methods

    The climatic characteristic of the daytime climate and the role of tropical rainforests as carbon repository are relevant topics for the geography curricular of Bavaria (grade 10). Additionally every day’s products like cocoa make it possible to focus on social aspects and sustainable development which is part of the curriculum as well. Finally the interlinkage between biology, geography and in the broadest sense chemistry (concerning issues derived of carbon dioxide) empowers this project to provide students the opportunity to deal with critical thinking in regard to scientific backgrounds.

  • Relevance to the daily life of students

    There are many aspects why tropical rainforests are important for our daily life although they might not be that obvious in the first place. First of all as already mentioned in the title of the best practice rainforests play an important role in regard to the climate regulation of our planet. The more deforestation occurs the more dramatic climate phenomenon will be encountered in the future. Secondly if you are ill and buy medicine in a pharmacy you will get well in many cases by the healing power of tropical plants. Thirdly many products students encounter already when they are sitting on the breakfast table are grown in the tropics. This list is not exhaustive and could be extended by various examples from every day’s life.

  • Based on accurate and factual professional expertise

    Students encounter the plants in the professional environment of the botanical garden. All knowledge which is provided on the plants is accurate and based on the current scientific knowledge. The climate data students are working with derive from a DFG project and can be compared to actual findings of the scientists. The information taught in regard to sustainable development derive from scientific reports and independent evaluations of the different social labels.