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Jan 20, 2022


60 minutes


3rd, 4th, 5th


  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Art
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Social-Emotional Learning
  • Climate Action

Regional Focus

  • Global
  • Africa


  • Google Docs
  • Google Slides

Deforestation and Habitat Destruction (Art for the Earth #2)


In this lesson, students learn about deforestation, analyze paintings featuring deforestation themes, and then have the choice to learn about Wangari Maathai or design a climate action plan related to deforestation. 

Step 1 - Inquire: Students activate background knowledge about deforestation, watch a timelapse video of deforestation, and learn the different parts of the word "deforestation."

Step 2 - Investigate: Students analyze and reflect upon two paintings featuring themes of deforestation.

Step 3 - Inspire: Students watch a video about climate activist Felix Finkbeiner and choose one of two options: learn more about Felix's inspiration Wangari Maathai or design a climate action plan related to deforestation.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
10 minutes
  • Students activate background knowledge of deforestation by completing the "Know" and "Want to Know" parts of a KWL chart. Teacher can lead this exercise as a whole class or students can complete independently or in a group.
  • Students watch the Our Forests | Timelapse in Google Earth video.
  • Teacher explains the word "deforestation" by breaking it down into its root and affixes.
20 minutes
  • Teacher explains that students will be paying attention to how artwork impacts your thoughts and emotions.
  • Teacher shares two different works of art by Jill Pelto.
  • Students think-pair-share in response to the prompts on the slides. Alternatively, teacher may play calming music and have students write their own thoughts on the artwork.
  • In a notebook, students reflect on the two pieces using the prompts on the Teacher Slideshow.
30 minutes
  • Students watch a video about climate activist Felix Finkbeiner. Felix Finkbeiner is a German climate activist who founded the nonprofit Plant for the Planet in 2007, with aims to plant one million trees in Germany.
  • Students reflect on Felix's story, thinking about how they can make an impact on their local communities.
  • Students choose one of two options:
    • Option 1: Students learn more about Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who dedicated her life to planting trees and empowering women. Students watch a 15-minute video and conduct independent research about her life.
    • Option 2: Independently or in groups, students design a climate action plan related to deforestation.
Teaching Tips


  • There is opportunity for a lot of peer and group discussion in this lesson.
  • Students share their own thoughts and feelings about Jill Pelto's art, validating how they feel about deforestation and climate change.

Additional Prerequisites

  • This is lesson 2 of 6 in our 3rd-5th grade Art for the Earth unit.
  • A stable Internet connection is required to play the videos, especially the Google Earth timelapse video.
  • Students should have some background knowledge on Jill Pelto, which you can find in lesson 1 of our Art for the Earth unit.


  • This entire lesson lends itself to discussion. Group students accordingly so they can get the most out of this lesson.
  • The Google Earth timelapse video of deforestation can be emotional to watch. Students may react with anger, sadness, fear, or shock. Tell them that those feelings are normal and natural. You can also tell them that you are learning about deforestation and climate change in order to do something about it. Empowering your students is one of the most powerful gifts you can give them.
  • Some students may be eager to share their thoughts and feelings about Jill Pelto's art. Let them share with the class. Some students, however, may want to keep their feelings to themselves. That is OK too.
  • The Inspire section of this lesson features a lot of student agency. Some students may want to learn more about Wangari Maathai and then be "done" with the deforestation part of this unit. Other students may want to design an action plan for your school or community. Perhaps they'd like to plant more trees on your school grounds. Support these students appropriately, and perhaps their efforts will lead to a greener, healthier, calmer school environment.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 4-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and that their uses affect the environment.
      • 5-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Civics
      • D2.Civ.10.3-5 Identify the beliefs, experiences, perspectives, and values that underlie their own and others' points of view about civic issues.
    • Dimension 3: Gathering and Evaluating Sources
      • D3.1.3-5 Gather relevant information from multiple sources while using the origin, structure, and context to guide the selection.
    • Dimension 4: Taking Informed Action
      • D4.6.3-5 Draw on disciplinary concepts to explain the challenges people have faced and opportunities they have created, in addressing local, regional, and global problems at various times and places.
  • National Core Arts Standards
    • Visual Arts: Standard 7 - Perceive and analyze artistic work.
      • VA:Re7.2.4a Analyze components in visual imagery that convey messages.
    • Visual Arts: Standard 11 - Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.
      • VA:Cn11.1.5a Identify how art is used to inform or change beliefs, values, or behaviors of an individual or society.


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