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Dan Castrigano


Physical Geography


6th, 7th, 8th


Social Studies, Geography


80 minutes

Regional Focus



Google Docs, Google Slides


This lesson plan is licensed under Creative Commons.

Creative Commons License

Wangari Maathai: Deforestation Lesson

Created By Teachers:
Last Updated:
May 23, 2024
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This lesson introduces African environmentalist Wangari Maathai and links deforestation with the concepts of governance, poverty, and income opportunities for women in Kenya. 

Step 1 - Inquire: Students watch a video explaining ways to monitor the world's forests. Next, students explore the Global Forest Watch Interactive Map showing the health of the world's forests.

Step 2 - Investigate: Students watch a video about Wangari Maathai & The Green Belt Movement. Students answer guided questions as they watch the video.

Step 3 - Inspire: Teacher reads Wangari Maathai’s version of the “hummingbird story.” After listening, students write pledges about how they can contribute to restoring our Earth.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
Teaching Tips
  • Learning Wangari Maathai’s story is empowering for students because it emphasizes the fact that nobody is too small to make a difference. Maathai grew up in poverty in rural Kenya. Now she is remembered as one of the most powerful voices for environmental conservation, proper governance, and peace.
  • This lesson can inspire students to take direct action, just like Wangari Maathai.
  • This lesson is excellent for teaching the interdependence of environmental conservation, proper governance, poverty, income opportunities, and women's rights.
  • Global Forest Watch is an incredible resource. It has beautiful, detailed data. Students may want to continue exploring on their own time.
Additional Prerequisites
  • Wangari Maathai (1940-2011) was an environmental and political activist and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • In 1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental organization focused on planting trees and promoting gender equality.
  • Making the connection between deforestation and other topics (governance, poverty, income opportunities, and women’s rights) might be difficult for some concrete thinkers.
  • You could frame these topics using the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
    • Goal 1: No Poverty
    • Goal 5: Gender Equality
    • Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
    • Goal 15: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
Scientist Notes

This lesson introduces students to the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Wangari Maathai and deforestation. The Global Forest Watch resource is continually updated. This lesson has passed the science quality assessment.


Primary Standards

  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.2.6-8 Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions, and changes in their environmental characteristics.
      • D2.Geo.4.6-8 Explain how cultural patterns and economic decisions influence environments and the daily lives of people in both nearby and distant places.
      • D2.Geo.9.6-8 Evaluate the influences of long-term human-induced environmental change on spatial patterns of conflict and cooperation.
    • Dimension 4: Taking Informed Action
      • D4.7.6-8 Assess their individual and collective capacities to take action to address local, regional, and global problems, taking into account a range of possible levers of power, strategies, and potential outcomes.

Supporting Standards

  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Economics
      • D2.Eco.1.6-8 Explain how economic decisions affect the well-being of individuals, businesses, and society.
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.5.6-8 Analyze the combinations of cultural and environmental characteristics that make places both similar to and different from other places.
      • D2.Geo.10.6-8 Analyze the ways in which cultural and environmental characteristics vary among various regions of the world.
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