"When you think of the Amazon rainforest what adjectives can you use to describe it?" asked Phil Cammarata, Persell Middle School principal.
"Lush, green," said one teacher.
"Tall trees," said a student.
"Those are all good adjectives, but I guarantee after today you will think differently about the rainforest."
Cammarata recently presented a slide show to fifth graders as part of their English Language Arts Rainforest Module. The teachers asked Cammarata to present because he has visited the Amazon rainforest twice to visit his brother-in-law who owns a farm in the city of Juara, Mato Grosso.
"I wanted to help out the team. As a principal I don't always get the opportunity to directly impact the academic success of my students," said Cammarata. "So for me, it was like being a social studies teacher again at Washington Middle School. I was excited to share my firsthand knowledge and photographs of something students are studying in class and, to also show a different side of the rainforest."
At the time of Cammarata's presentation, students had completed Unit 1 of the Rainforest Module, which included reading informational texts designed to build background knowledge to understand how scientists communicate about living things in the rainforest. Students also read interviews, articles and analyzed a documentary video to help them answer the guiding question, "What is unique about living things in the rainforest?" Through reading informational texts, students learned about the diverse wildlife living in rainforests located all over the western hemisphere.
"Although we have enhanced the module lessons through use of the Internet, having Cammarata's expertise went beyond what we could offer," said Mindy Trapani, Persell Middle School teacher. "He was able to provide examples of unique things living in the rainforest through his photographs. His personal knowledge of Brazil and the Amazon rainforest was an added resource that helped students develop a deeper understanding of yet another rainforest in the western hemisphere. The main purpose of reading informational text is to gain knowledge about the world around us. Mr. Cammarata's presentation provided valuable background knowledge that many of our students otherwise would not have access to. It was amazing to see how student thinking continued to change as they learned new information about the Amazon rainforest."