South America: The Vanishing Rain Forests {deserts}

Welcome to my very last post on our South American Unit Study.  I’m so chuffed I managed to finally get it all written down, and I am so ready to move on to our next continent study, which I think will be Asia.  This week we learnt all about the importance of plants and trees in a rain-forest, along with looking into the massive deforestation which is occurring across South America. We focused on Argentina (Patagonia Desert) and Chile (Atacama Desert):


This was a (necessarily) more serious post to normal, without so many fun activities.  We supplemented this weeks learning with Unit 4 of EdTechLens’ Rainforest Journey curriculum, covering the plants, trees and fungi of the forest, as well as the importance of ecosystems:


and how the efforts of man has caused deforestation to occur, which is the precursor to desertification:


and weeks 11-13 of Science Shepherd’s Elementary Science which were entitled ‘Life Science – Plants’.  These two curricula covered all of the plant science they could possibly need at 5 and 8 🙂

The main focus, this week however, was learning about desertification, that is the systematic destruction of one of the most important ecosystems in the world.  I included the last two picture books from our adventure box, as well as rereading The Vanishing Rain Forest:


Mark Plotkin co-authored ‘The Shaman’s Apprentice’, and I found this following TED video of his, explaining the importance, not only of the plant and animal life of the Amazon, but also of the indigenous people who live there, who have such an incredible wealth of knowledge about the healing properties of the plant life they live within, very very interesting:

Seriously, I loved this video.  One of the most important statements he made was that it is not the jaguars which are the most endangered species in the Amazon Rain Forest, it is the tribal indiginous people which are most at risk for extinction.  The following shows the small tribe around the Amazon basin:


This was so interesting, especially as we have been learning about endangered animals for A8’s project.  We learnt about the risks to these indiginous tribes, and realised that the threats to the tribes are exactly the same as the threats to the endangered animals we have read about:


Modern man is destroying the habitat of not just the rare animals species but also of the tribal people, whose Shamans hold a wealth of knowledge about the healing powers of the plants surrounding them.  Plants that are being killed off without thought, by western man.

The three picture books (above) pretty much covered everything I wanted the girls to know in a very interesting and informative way.


I used the Dr Seuss’ ‘Why, oh, Why, Are Deserts So Dry?’ to introduce them to the deserts of the world, why a desert is called a desert and what makes a desert a desert:


I found a couple of YouTube documentaries, one on the Patagonia Desert:

This is one of three and we watched all three.  I also found a documentary on the Atacama Desert:

Over four hours of footage, I think the girls were all deserted out by the end of the week.  Fortunately they were all really interesting and we all learnt stacks.

Poetry Study

We carried out a study of Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral using this book:


I loved this because it was a book with one side in Spanish and one side in English.  A8 did some copy work of her chosen poem called ‘I Am Not Alone’ .

Artist Study

We looked at famous jungle artist, Henri Rousseau, using this book:


Whilst this was one of our least successful art lessons we did manage a collage and B5 had lots of fun making it:


Nice easy week, this week  🙂

More Inspiration



  1. I really like her jungle picture, so I would say it was a success! Your studies are intense, even for the littles! (BTW: I love all the English expressions you use, which highlights the difference between English and American English. You must feel the same way, but opposite, to all the American posts you read.)

  2. I can’t believe I’m now learning alongside your youngest girls! This looks like such a fun unit. We once did a fun workshop at Wisley where the kids learned about Rousseau and made collages. I agree with Phyllis – yours is fab!

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