The Hummingbird and the Caracara(An Achuar Legend)
Maria Zambrano, Teacher, Lutheran High School
Grades: Middle/Secondary (7-‐9)
Subject: World Geography, Foreign Language Duration: 3 class periods
The Achuar are one of the indigenous groups of people living in the heart of the Amazon rainforest between Ecuador and Peru. According to the General Manager at Kapawi Ecolodge and Reserve, approximately 8000 people live in 68 communities, usually close to a water source like the Pastaza River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon.
Achuar is a compound word; “shuar” means person, and “acha” means aguaje palm, which grows abundantly in the Amazon lowlands. The word literally means people of the aguaje palm. For Achuar closest to the lodge, 60% of their income comes from direct employment,
supplying products and services to ecotourism and 21% from handicraft sales, such as pottery and jewelry. They also raise manioc, sweet potatoes, sugar cane and hot chilies. They depend on hunting and fishing for extra protein.
The manioc is used to make “chicha” (a local beer); made and served by the women. The Achuar believe in many spirits that give them guidelines for living in a
harmonious relationship with the rain forest and its creatures. They have a strong commitment to preserving their culture and sustainable rainforest for future
Learning OBJECTIVESLesson Purpose:
The Achuar communities of eastern Ecuador are committed to saving their culture and land, which is home to roughly half of 1.6 million known species of the earth. It is difficult to find written legends and myths in this traditionally oral culture, and story-‐telling is becoming a lost art, this lesson allows students to reflect upon the need to continue the appreciation of other cultures (as well as our own) through this
literary form. This lesson emphasizes the cultural ties of the Achuar to their environment, the Amazon Rainforest.
The students will be able to analyze the roles of men and women within one of the indigenous people of the Amazon River Basin, the Achuar, as evidenced in the myths/legends.
Students will compare and contrast their thoughts about another culture with their own culture.
The students will be able to identify the various fauna and the
importance of preserving the biodiversity of their environment for a sustainable future.
Students will read, illustrate, and role-‐play the various parts of a legend of the Achuar communities of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. They will also discuss the importance of preserving the biodiversity of this region, as well as the beliefs of this indigenous culture.
1. Make copies of the legend, The Hummingbird and the Caracara, and cut into sections to distribute to students.
2. Write names of 15-‐20 animals (depending on class size) and cut them to use for random drawing of research assignment . This will avoid duplication of research topics.
National Geography Standards: Standard 10: The Characteristics, Distribution, and Complexity of Earth’s Cultural Mosaics
National Environmental Education Standards:
Strand 2.3.B: Culture
National Foreign Language Standards:
Cultures: Gain Knowledge and Understanding of Other Cultures
Standard 2.1: Students demonstrate an understanding of the
relationship between the practices and perspectives of the culture studied.
Standard 2.2: Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the products and
perspectives of the culture studied. Unit Vocabulary: • caracara (bird) • colibri(hummingbird) • chakra(farm) • chicha(manioc beer) • biodiversity • manioc (yucca) • hierba (weeds) Materials: Student Handouts:
• The Hummingbird and the Caracara (in English and Spanish)
• The Hummingbird and the Caracara • Map of Ecuador
• Powerpoint with pictures of Achuar community and background information. • Music with rainforest sounds (optional).
Lesson Resources on the Achuar
http://www.achuarperu.org http://www.ecotourdirectory.com http://www.gateofthesun.com http://www.kapawi.com/ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6354887.stm Assessment of Learning:
In language, oral discussion throughout the lesson is used as mini-‐comprehension checks and/or
assessment. The journal entries/reflections and oral reports may also be utilized as formative assessment. Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS): World Geography: 5a, 8a, 9a, 16b, 16c, 17d
Language other than English: 1A, 1B, 1C, 2A, 2B, 4B 9th Grade English/Languages Arts: 9A, 11A, 11F
Day 1: The Hummingbird and the Caracara:
1. Play CD of sounds of the rainforest and ask students to close their eyes and imagine where they might be. Have brainstorming session of what they thought about as they listened. Have a volunteer jot these down on a transparency or dry erase board, where all can see. Try to do this in the target language being studied if possible, depending on level of fluency. (10 minutes)
2. Using a map of Ecuador, show students the location of the Achuar communities (in the southeast corner of the country, in the Amazon Basin). Tell (show) pictures collected of the people and how they live. Refer to the lesson powerpoint. Ask student to think about what it might be like for this community to be isolated from the modern world. (15-‐20 minutes)
3. Hand out portions of the “Hummingbird and the Caracara” legend (on separate index cards) to individuals or student groups. Give them a few minutes to read these, and then have each read orally in the order in which they think these occurred in the story. Look at key words that dictate sequence as each is read. Provide guidance where needed to help with key vocabulary. (15 minutes)
4. Read complete legend once again. (5 minutes)
Day 2: Legend Illustrations
1. Have student pairs illustrate favorite part of yesterday’s legend. Student illustrations should focus on cultural aspects of the legend, and ways the legend illustrates the community’s tie to their environment. (25 minutes) 2. Each pair of students should describe the picture briefly to whole class; tell why it was significant to them. (15-‐20 minutes)
Note to teachers: You may assign the student whose artistic ability is stronger to do the illustration and the one whose verbal intelligence is stronger to do the oral description.
3. Check for student understanding using the following example questions (5-‐10 minutes):
• How do you think this myth or legend reflects the Achuar culture? • How do you think it represents their geography?
• Taking into consideration the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest, what other animals of the area
might be incorporated into this legend?
• What is the moral of this legend?
• How would you change the end of the story? Have individuals reflect in their own journal what they
have learned. Ask students to volunteer to share their thoughts with the class. 4. Have individuals reflect in their own journal what they have learned. (5 minutes)
5. As Homework: Have students research a specific animal or plant of the Amazon rainforest. Possible research topics might be the following: habitat, feeding habits, description, life cycle, etc. Note: To avoid duplication, a list of animals of the Amazon can be written on paper, cut up, and have each student draw one from a hat. Possible animals include: speckled chachalaca, hummingbird, caracara, macaws, ducks, egrets, frogs, pink dolphin, caiman, and other snakes and reptiles, etc.
Day 3: Understanding the biodiversity of the Amazon
1. Students should report orally on assigned animal (in target language if possible). They may have visuals to represent their animals too. (30-‐35 minutes)
2. When all students have reported, ask students if they know what “biodiversity” means? Biodiversity is the diversity of plant and animal life in a particular habitat. Tell students that Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Emphasize to students that the Achuar culture is closely tied to the environment of the Amazon (as seen in the legend). Pose the question to students: How might the Achuar feel about development in the Amazon, or destruction of their ecosystem? Answer will vary. (10 minutes)
**If a visual is required, some students may stress or spend too much time on this rather than the preparation of the oral portion. You may wish to emphasize that the research needs to be done first, and the visual later.
***Option for extension: If time allows within curriculum restrictions, students may be assigned to create their own myth or legend in the target language.
The Hummingbird and the Caracara
From the Lesson Author:
Since I was fortunate to be on a Fulbright study that met some of the most sensitive and patient people in the Achuar community of the Ecuador Amazon Basin, I thought I would utilize one of the legends as told to us by their guides. This sharing of their culture through storytelling around the campfire made the eve of our departure from the Amazon rainforest a most memorable culmination of our experience at the Kapawi Lodge. According to the Achuar beliefs, every plant and animal has its own soul and life, almost a human spirit. This was evident as we hiked through the rainforest and our guide would explain the daily and/or medicinal value of the plants and animals we encountered with an almost reverent tone. It is important to keep this in mind as one reads their legends and myths.