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Lesson Plans
Rainforest Rock
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials

Prep for Teachers

Prior to the teaching, cue the videotape to the appropriate starting point. Bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson. Load any plug-ins or helper applications necessary to run the Web sites. Identify preferred activity and associated software. Become familiar with its functions by creating your own project to model for students. Collect materials for hands on activities and prepare resource baskets for designated cooperative groups.

Your choice of implementation of computer-based activities will depend on available computer and Internet resources.

  • If a computer lab is available, have students work in pairs (or no more than three students per computer.)
  • If access is limited to a few computers, have student pairs rotate time on the computer over a few class periods to accommodate the entire class. Make non-digital resources, either printed from text based Web sites or materials from libraries or museum, available for off computer activity.
  • If only one computer is available, use a large screen monitor or LCD projector for whole class display of Web based resources and also provide non-digital materials. Be sure that audio output is available on the monitor or projector to be able listen to musical selections.
When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites or other multimedia elements.

Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

The following activities will prepare students to study the Baka, the people of the rain forest of central Africa:

Establish what students know and what they want to know about. Many students will have knowledge about the rain forest from previous environmental and biome study. Invite students to share what they know about the rain forest and the people who live there, and chart their responses in a KWL Chart, what they "K"now, "W"hat they would like to find out, and, at the conclusion of the lesson, what they have "L"earned. Students may know some things about the rain forest but they often know little about its inhabitants.

Students with adequate reading ability who require further information can be invited to read the Rain Forest Fact Sheet, by the Rain Forest Action Network, to enhance their knowledge. The site provides a printer friendly version. Use the following Glossary words from RAN site to enhance the discussion of characteristics of the rain forest.

Culture: the total aspects of a group of people's lives, such as art, music and food, that make the group unique.
Ecology: the study of the relationships between living things and their environments.
Exploit: to use something, especially for profit, without considering the consequences or damaging results.
Indigenous: the first, or original living things (people, animals, plants) of a certain area, prior to its transformation by civilization.
Sustainable:  using products of the forest in a way that does not permanently destroy them, so that people in the future can also use them.

Discuss the definition of "culture." Ask how the environment is reflected in the culture of the community. How specifically are sounds reflected? What sounds might be unique to the rainforest community?

Have students speculate about the people of the rain forest. What might they be like? How and where might they live? Are these people indigenous?

Compare and contrast "exploit" and "sustain." How do these words relate to the study of the rain forest and the people who live there?

Start tape at beginning.

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to listen for facts about the rain forest and its inhabitants. See how many they can find. PLAY. As music starts, PAUSE at the words, "...this is the place the Baka call home."

CHECK for student comprehension by asking the following questions:

What is the size of the rainforest? (Mexico.)

How many Africans live in the rainforest? (3 million.)

How long have people lived in the rainforest? (No one knows, maybe 2000 B.C.)

What are they called by the Egyptians? (People of the trees.)

What are they called by Europeans? (Pygmies.)

What do they call themselves? (Baka.)

What does Baka mean? (Free like a bird; they believe they thrown out of heaven for their noise and laughter, being too noisy and sent to live in the rainforest.)
Discuss students' answers to questions and ask what else students know about rain forests (of central Africa and rain forests in general) to add to the KWL chart.

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify what changes have occurred in the life of the Baka. Listen carefully to the sounds of the rainforest. START. PAUSE at the words, " seemed like a good deal." CHECK for understanding. What changes occurred it the life of the Baka? (Cameroonian government moved them out in the 1960's to roadside villages.)

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to think about whether the move to the roadside villages was "a good deal" as they watch the next segment. START the tape, and PAUSE when she finishes talking. The caption will say, "Now we stay here for 2 to 3 months at a time." CHECK for comprehension. What was it like to live in the rainforest "before the red dirt highway?" Why did moving to the roadside villages seem like a good idea, was it the best of both worlds? (They gained access to schools, medical care and a chance to trade.) Discuss the life in the rainforest for the Baka of today. What do you think they have gained and what have they lost? (Answers may vary.)

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to watch for evidence of the "old ways living on." START with music at the river. PAUSE after laughing. How do the Baka still use the environment of the rainforest? (By washing at the river.) What other ways were mentioned, or do students think the Baka may still keep the "old ways?" (Answers may vary but will include hunting, fishing, using leaves to build shelter.)

Learning Activities

The Africa series companion Web site is rich in resources for students to explore. Using the Student Web Organizer, students will examine the relationship between the everyday life of the Baka and their music.

Explain to students they will explore the Web sites to find examples of how the Baka use music and to learn about the instruments that create the sounds of the rain forest. They will also locate images that show the how the Baka live, both in the rain forest and the roadside villages.

Look at Life in the Rain Forest
Ask students to log on to the Web site Baka Pygmies - Music and Dances at Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to cooperatively complete the "Looking" Student Organizer, in which they will provide them with the opportunity to look through a picture gallery of all aspects of Baka life and descriptions of the music and dance to accompany each event. (Descriptive text may require explanation.) Scroll right to view all columns. Pictures may benefit from large screen projection. Identify everyday and special events for which the Baka use music. Who participates in making the music? What purpose does it serve? How do the Baka use the resources of the rain forest in their lives and music? Look for instruments that were constructed from materials found in the rainforest.

Listen to the Sounds of the Rain Forest
The following sites provide sound files of Baka instruments and songs. Share these sites with the whole class using a large screen monitor or LCD projection device that provides sound output. Do not display the accompanying picture (TURN VIDEO OFF) until the students have had a chance to hear each sound.

We are going to listen to several instruments and songs of the Baka. As each sound file is played provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by asking student to listen and describe each sound. Does it sound like an instrument you know? How do you think the sound is being produced?

Have students log on to Rain Forest Music at rainforest_music.html.

Click on the link for the water drums. In the video scene at the river, previously shown, Baka youth are playing water drums while the women wash clothes. (You may want to provide student with the opportunity to REPLAY the video segment to see the technique used to create this "instrument.")

Click on the link for the limbindi. The limbindi is created from materials found in the rain forest. What will the Baka do if these natural resources are no longer available? How might their song change?

Click on the links for the Yelli and Abale songs. Yelli and Abale songs are said to create sounds that imitate nature. What sounds can you hear in the music? Why do you think these songs are used for the events that are described?

The next site has picture and sound files of string instruments that have evolved as the lives of the Baka have changed. Once again provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to consider how the sound is produced and if it sounds like a known instrument. Visit Instruments of the Baka Forest People at

Click on the link for the earth bow (angbindi). Click on the link for the sound of limbindi. How are these two instruments the same? How are they different?

Click on the link for the sound of ngombi. How does this instrument compare to the others? (These may sound more modern due to use of conventional wire for strings.) Instructions are available for creating a ngombi for older students.

Click on the link for the sound of the ieta. The ieta is not a native Baka instrument. Point out to students what the text accompanying the picture says about the ieta and the materials used to make it. Why do you think the Baka might have adopted this instrument as their own?

Review the pictures of all the instruments asking students to take note of the materials used. What do they have in common? (Materials come from the resources of the rain forest.) How have the instruments changed? (More and more materials of the "modern" world, tin cans, wire, are being used.)

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

After exploring the culture of the Baka and its rich musical interpretation, it's time for students to create their own music in the style of the Baka.

Direct students to the Africa for Kids Web site (This site requires the Flash 5 plugin) and click on "African Finger Piano." Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking students to try some thumb piano tunes using this digital version of an African instrument played by the Baka. They can both listen to and make music. After they explore the site and listen to the songs, they may choose to compose music of their own. Enlist the support of music teachers to assist students in the composition of original music in the style of the Baka. Given adequate traditional instrumental resources, student can create their own music in the style of the Baka to represent the struggle to reclaim the rainforest. This may be as simple as using the rhythms created with everyday objects or as sophisticated as using midi keyboards.

Students can create their own African finger piano using the materials listed at left.

Use these directions to make one of your own for students to model, and provide them to your students.

Constructing a Finger Piano

  1. Sand side and edges of wood block to remove rough edges
  2. Glue down the nails leaving about 1 in. space from the end of the wood on either side of the pre-drilled holes.
  3. Cut the bobby pins (3 in. long) in half. Flatten, file and sand smooth.
  4. Lay the bobby pins across the nails so that they are balanced and evenly spaced.
  5. Drop the eyebolts into the holes on the same side as the nails and secure with the nuts on the back of the wood base.
  6. Arrange the bobby pins as shown on the digital version of the finger piano, with one centered and extending farther down the wood base that the rest.
  7. Arrange the bobby pins to produce a range of tones. Students will discover the farther the strip protrudes, the lower the tone, the shorter the strip, the higher the tone. Students will need patience and quiet to hear the differences.
  8. Mounting the wood base on a box will amplify the sound and improve the quality. Hot glue the finger piano to a small box and cut a sound hole on top.
You may want to create a poster listing these steps for students to follow. Consider having students work as partners or in teams, as age appropriate.

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Explore the cycle of life from the floor of the rainforest to the canopy. (Use video segment on monkeys and gorillas after water music and the scenes after the hunt, which show how nothing is wasted in the rainforest.) How will the changes the Baka have experienced affect the life cycle of the rain forest?

View the video segments which chronicle the Baka's struggle with the destruction of their rainforest and their efforts to take control over the activities of the loggers. What musical representations of social or political struggles can students find in their own contemporary music or the music of their parents?

Send students outside of the school to listen to the sounds of the environment. They may record them and/or journal the sounds they hear. In class discuss definition of "culture." Ask how the environment is reflected in the culture of the community. How specifically are sounds reflected? Are some sounds unique to certain segments of their own community?

Community Connections

"Become an Activist" Multimedia Activity
Students will become grant seekers creating a persuasive presentation for the preservation of both the culture and environment that are threatened by the destruction of the rainforests of central Africa. Their presentation to will convince "funders" to support programs to help the Baka. Have students revisit the Web sites to collect pictures, sounds, and information that can be assembled into an informative multimedia presentation reflecting the culture of the Baka and the importance of its preservation. The focus of the presentation should be support for the Baka, their way of life, and the protection of the rainforest. Programs like Hyperstudio and Power Point can be used.

Remind students of their obligation to observe copyright restrictions and to cite their sources in the creation of their presentation.