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Costa Rican Caterpillars: An Endangered Ecosystems Activity

This in-depth learning activity takes students to Costa Rica, where they join the experts to study a critical inhabitant of the ecosystem.


PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Activity Type

  • Activities and Games

In the exciting Costa Rican Caterpillars activity (grades 4–8), the Earthwatch Institute and Scholastic offer students the unique opportunity to study this species with research teams on location in a Costa Rican tropical forest.

Through videos, photos, background articles, and field reports from the site, students learn about the caterpillars that are instrumental to this endangered ecosystem. Students also get an understanding of the Earthwatch team’s research, and why scientific study of natural populations is important.


  • First, students read about the field site, a biological reserve in northern Costa Rica called La Selva. They also learn about the caterpillars who have a significant effect on the rainforest plants.
  • Students can read 10 detailed field reports from the site that share how the Earthwatch teams collect caterpillars and analyze them.
  • The Field Director of Earthwatch's Conservation Research Initiative (CRI) in Brazil's Pantanal discusses her work to protect this unique ecosystem.
  • Students can meet teacher Shauneen Giudice, who environmental lessons go beyond the classroom.
  • Students can Be an Explorer by studying an ecosystem close to home with direction from Scholastic and documenting their findings.
  • Show What You Know challenges students to build their own caterpillar, based on tips that share how various caterpillars would survive in their environment.


Learning Objectives

While participating in the Costa Rican Caterpillarsactivity, students will:

  • Discuss the importance of preserving endangered ecosystems
  • Read online texts from the Field Reports to build comprehension of the nature of scientific inquiry
  • Read online texts from the field site to build comprehension about the rain forest and wetland environments and their organisms
  • Investigate a local ecosystem by making observations and collecting samples
  • Use a variety of technological and informative resources to conduct research and analyze data about the ecosystem
  • Write about the characteristics and changes in the ecosystem






Susan Cheyney

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