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Lesson Plans
Rx Rainforest:
The Primate Prescription
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Prep for Teachers

Prior to the activity, bookmark each of the Web sites used in the lesson. Load the Shockwave plug-in onto all computers in your classroom. CUE the videotapes to their appropriate starting points. Prepare copies of the handouts.
Review Web resources and bookmark those that are appropriate for your students' ages and abilities. You may optionally create and publish a Web page of your own that includes links to Web resources and clarifying instructions to which students may repeatedly refer.

View the video clip in its entirety to become familiar with all starts and stops. CUE the videotape to the appropriate starting point so you may easily begin the lesson.

Prepare the student organizers and handouts for each part of the lesson by copying them for each student. Make sure students have generic notetaking materials as needed.

Be sure that video cameras are fully charged and have rewound, writeable DV tapes loaded. If the camera is to remain stationery it is advisable to use a power adaptor when filming. Be sure to have the necessary video editing software loaded and camera-to-computer cables available for downloading video clips.

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

Setting the Stage

Students will view two segments from the video, "Wisdom of the Wild." The first will explore modern application of the wisdom of both animals and the indigenous people of the rainforest. The second will discuss how chimpanzees are used in medical laboratory research and the efforts to provide them with a natural habitat post research.

Step 1:

In preparation for the lessons to follow, have students ask family members, especially grandparents and older family members, if they use non-traditional treatments for common ailments, ones that do not rely on prescription or over the counter drugs. What is the source of these non-traditional cures? Before viewing the video segments, have students share their family cures and sources.

At the conclusion of the discussion, hold up a bottle of aspirin and ask students if they know its source. The blueprint for aspirin is derived from extracts of willow trees found in the rainforest. Introduce the first segment, telling students that the rainforest may be one of nature's medicine cabinets, a fact well known by the indigenous people who live there.

Step 2: First Segment

CUE the video to just after the opening credits (Viewers Like You), to the image of a mountain in the mist. Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking students to listen for where and how the medicine men of the rainforest have gained their knowledge.

PLAY the video as the narrator begins to say, "Hidden deep in the remote mountain forest of Tanzania there is a magical world."

PAUSE as the narrator says, "These observations from the past provide a wealth of knowledge still used today," and a chimpanzee behind a branch is shown on the screen.

CHECK for understanding. (Medicine men watch the creatures around them. They have found cures using plants of the forest. Knowledge has been handed down from generation to generation.)

Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, telling students that medical researchers have gone to the rainforest to learn from traditional healers. Ask students to take notes about Dr. Huffman's research using the Wisdom of the Wild Organizer found in the Student Organizers.

RESUME PLAY. PAUSE as Dr. Huffman is taking leaf samples and the narrator says, "Michael knows he is working against the clock."

CHECK for understanding. What is the focus of Dr. Huffman's research? (He is studying the plants of the rainforest and how animals use them.) How long has he been studying? (Over a decade.) Why is time running out? (The destruction of the rainforest threatens the safe habitat for chimpanzees. It also endangers the continued growth of plants found only in the rainforest, a fact students will have to deduce from what they have seen and heard in the video.)

Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION asking students what discovery Dr. Huffman makes.

PLAY and PAUSE as Dr. Huffman is taking leaf samples and says, "It's amazing that humans and chimpanzees are using the same plant for the same thing."

CHECK for understanding: What discovery did Dr. Huffman make? (Chimpanzees use a plant to help cure stomach ailments. The indigenous people use the same plant) and why is it so important? (Parasitic diseases are common throughout the world and can often be fatal.)

Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION telling students to note some drugs linked to the rainforest.

PAUSE as the narrator says, "Following in the footsteps of medicine men before him, Dr. Michael Huffman continues his quest." CHECK for understanding. What are some of the drugs that have already been linked to the rainforest? (Quinine, heart medications and possible cures for cancer.)

Step 3

Working in groups, have students discuss the meaning of Dr. Huffman's research by sharing their notes and answering the questions in the Summary section of the Organizer. This will enable them to synthesize their observations. The group should be able to come to consensus in order to answer each question. While students are in discussion, FAST FORWARD to CUE the video to the beginning of the last segment. There are three intervening segments. The segment that immediately precedes it ends with a boy watching dolphins on TV with his Dad and then dolphins swimming under a bridge at sunset. The narrator says, "While many creatures remain so much a mystery, some creatures we have come to know nearly as well as we know ourselves."

CHECK for understanding by reviewing the answers with students.
  1. Why are chimpanzees ideal medical research candidates? (Because of their close genetic resemblance to humans and their susceptibility to human disease.)
  2. What factors will hinder Dr. Huffman's success? (The number of safe, natural habitats for chimpanzees. The modernization of indigenous people of the rainforest and loss of the knowledge of medicine men.)
  3. How does Dr. Huffman conduct his research? Cite some specific tasks. (He explores the jungle with the medicine man. He takes notes and draws pictures in a journal. He replicates the tribal preparation of cures in small samples.) 4. What is Dr. Hoffman's goal? (Answers may vary. Overal, Dr. Huffman is looking for permanent cures.)
  4. What is his biggest obstacle? (Time and deforestation of the rainforest.) Why? (Increased deforestation threatens chimpanzee habitat, the continued existence of indigenous tribe,s and the plants they both use as medicinal cures.)
Step 4: Second Segment

Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, telling students that chimpanzees have been involved in research for a long time. Ask students to identify the kind of research and some of the reasons why chimps were used. RESUME PLAY.

PAUSE immediately after a single chimpanzee is shown in a cage the narrator says, "For years on end, routine live biopsies and solitary lives in cramped, steel cages was all that some would ever know."

CHECK for understanding. (Chimps were used in space research, medical techniques and in the search for lifesaving drugs and vaccines, including a hepatitis vaccine. They share 98% of our chromosomes.) Ask students what they think happened to these chimpanzees once the research was complete. (Some did not survive the testing; others were left maimed or severely debilitated.)

Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking students to provide some of the reasons why research chimps couldn't simply be released into the wild. RESUME PLAY.

PAUSE as one of the chimps scoops something out of the water and the narrator says, "It was a grand experiment; no one knew if it would work, but it did."

CHECK for understanding. (The chimpanzees were taken from their mothers as babies to the labs. They had no experience in the wild. They had been in little boxes for years.)

Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION asking students to think about the use of chimpanzees in medical research and the value of the refuge. RESUME PLAY.

STOP at the shot of Linda and the chimpanzee holding hands after Linda says, "It's important for all of us as a species, to realize that all animals are individuals and that they suffer the pain and the joy that we do. They are entitled and deserve an opportunity."

Step 5:

Acknowledge that the segment just viewed was very emotional. Who would want to deliberately hurt any animal? However, without involving chimpanzees, a hepatitis vaccine may never have been discovered. Discuss with students the two different ways in which chimpanzees are used in medical research. (Dr. Huffman's research involved the observation of chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Laboratory research requires a controlled environment in which the chimpanzees are used directly to test drugs.) Ask students to put aside their feelings and share their observations as scientists. What benefits are there to laboratory research? (In a laborator,y scientists can create a controlled environment. In the field, there can be many variables.) Are the two types of research mutually exclusive? Can we stop doing laboratory research? (Dr. Huffman may still have to laboratory test compounds that come from the rainforest.) What solutions might students offer? (Answers may vary.)

Learning Activities

Students will conduct research based on the Introductory Activity and to support their culminating projects. As some of the Web sites require extended reading, you may want to print out the pages for reading offline. Working with printouts provides an excellent opportunity for cooperative learning groups. When working on the Internet, it is often helpful to have students work in pairs enabling one to navigate the site and the other to take notes. Their shared understanding of the Web site contributes to their learning.

Step 1:

Using the Jungle Medicine Organizer, have students read one of the online news articles or the report. Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking students to list three important facts provided in each article and identify a career or specific job that relates to jungle medicine.

PAUSE to review student responses and check for understanding. Ask students to provide definitions for vocabulary words and other words found in the readings that are unfamiliar. Record them on a chart for future reference. Vocabulary words should include:

Indigenous - native or local; may refer to plants, animals, or people

Shaman - an individual member of a tribe or community who provides healing; tribal medicine men and women

Bioprospecting - searching for and "mining" plants and animals for the purpose of developing pharmaceuticals

Pharmocognosy - the study of medicinal and toxic products from natural plant sources

Zoopharmocognasy - the study of and research on self-medicative behavior in animals (using natural plant sources)

Ethobotany - the study of how people of a particular culture and region make of use of indigenous plants

Step 2

Students will begin to prepare for their video presentation, a news or documentary format that will include mock interviews. Based on their article review ask students to brainstorm a list of stakeholders, people who would be concerned about medical cures from the rainforest. (Responses could include: indigenous people, shamans [medicine men], anthropologists, medical researchers, medical doctors, pharmaceutical executives, and animal rights activists.) Narrow the list down to 4 or 5, enough to assign one stakeholder/interviewee to each small group of students.

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Working collaboratively as a class, students will produce a news Interview video based on their research that will focus on the medicinal value of the rainforest. The news format will include mock interviews with people who have knowledge and interest in the topic.

Step 1:

Divide students into groups, assigning each group one of the previously identified stakeholders. Ask students to come up with five questions that might be asked of these people. If they know the answer based on what they have already read they should record both the question and the answer.

It is possible that students will need to do further research to answer some of the questions generated. Refer to the Web Resources List in the Student Materials section and select those sites appropriate for your students' ages and abilities. Bookmark sites for easy access and maximum on-task time at the computer. Have them bookmarked on an available classroom computer or publish the resources on a Web page for easy access from home or school.

Some students may need to use a search engine. Provide support for appropriate use of keywords and guidelines for evaluating sites.

Step 2:

Assemble a video production team by selecting students or asking for volunteers. The team will include a producer, director, videographer, and interview host. The team will coordinate with expert groups and be responsible for creating a storyboard to help organize the edited final project. Specific responsibilities could include:

Producer: design a set for each interview and any "remote" locations," locate print and Web resources to support the content.

Director: supervise the recording sessions, sets up the shots, cues the actors.

Videographer: use the camera with skill and knowledge of what makes a good shot.

Interview Host: introduce the news report and interview each guest. One person from each "Interviewee" group will appear in the video as the "guest." Each group will assist in set design and wardrobe appropriate for their expert's interview.

Record interviews and any additional footage to enhance the video. The completion of a video presentation will require time to both record video and edit it. Good planning will help the process and keep the projects from running over an extended period of time.

The video presentation should include the following:



Audio background tracks

Still frame pictures (gathered from scanned images, Internet resources and other sources)

Step 3:

Students edit the video to include titles, credits, still shots, transitions, and additional audio as needed. Remember to observe copyright restrictions, obtaining permissions for using Internet images, sound clips from CDs (should be limited to 30 seconds) and other proprietary material. Although educational fair use generally permits use in student projects, some permissions may still be required. Make this an authentic activity by providing real life guidelines for video production.

Step 4:

After students complete their video, provide the opportunity for them to share their work with others. They can use their video to discuss their learning and to educate their peers.

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Write a story from the perspective of a chimpanzee used in medical laboratory research and one free in the rainforest. What threats do they face? What contributions can they make?

Create a "Nature's Pharmacy" containing samples or mock-ups of medicinal products that either came from or were developed from the plants of the rainforests of the world. Use the Web Resources to identify plants, drugs, and the ailments they address. Since homeopathic remedies have gained increasing popularity in recent years, be sure to include them in the medicine chest as well.

Explore other cultures that historically do not have access to modern medicine. What plants did they use for healing? Have those plants found their way into modern practice?

Gather statistical information about the rainforest; rate of destruction, number of plants, number of drugs derived from rainforest compounds, etc. Using a spreadsheet as a tool, pose "what if" questions. What if the rate of destruction were reduced by 5% or 10%? How many new drugs might be discovered?

Community Connections
  • Interview a pharmacist about natural products and drugs that have their origins in the rainforest. Interview local stakeholders, pharmaceutical firms, researchers, medical doctors for their perspective.
  • Learn more about rainforest activism and letter writing campaigns. The Rainforest Action Network ( has activities in which kids can participate.