Curricular Unit: Lost in the Amazon

Contributed by: Adventure Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Three images: Photo of a man reading a paper map. Map of northern half of the South American continent showing the Amazon River as a long red line across a deep green region. Photo of a bright green frog with orange feet and bulging red eyes on a black rock.
Students try to survive getting lost in the Amazon rainforest
Copyright © (man, frog) 2004 Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052-6399 USA. All rights reserved. (map) U.S. Geological Survey|mt:2||


The Lost in the Amazon curricular unit is a series of minds-on and hands-on engineering activities based on an adventure scenario set in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Students imagine themselves to be a team of EnviroTech engineers returning to the U.S. from a conference in Brasilia, Brazil. When their plane crashes deep in the Amazon forest, they work in groups to overcome various obstacles in their quest to survive and reach the nearest city as quickly and safely as possible. Motivated by this adventurous theme, students discover, learn and apply the following: 1) classification of plants and insects; 2) general categorizing skills; 3) process skills: problem solving and critical thinking; 4) scientific testing and experimentation; 5) materials properties.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Engineers work in teams to invent and develop solutions to problems. Following the steps of the engineering design process, engineers first identify and define the problem or challenge. They gather information and conduct research to learn about the topics related to the problem, and they brainstorm and propose multiple possible solutions. Engineers evaluate the various potential solutions and select one that best meets the criteria for success. Testing is often done to verify that the proposed solution will solve the problem or challenge. The Lost in the Amazon unit provides a project framework in which student teams act as engineering teams to solve a number of challenges using the engineering design process.

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Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
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Unit Overview

Through seven lessons and nine activities, students are guided through navigation, exploration and survival situations based in the Amazon rainforest.

The Lost in the Amazon unit uses a hypothetical scenario script to guide student teams from lesson to lesson and provide motivation for the activities. Each scene may be read aloud by the teacher to the class or students can take turns reading the scenarios out loud. Students can assume roles and act out the scenes within their groups. Working in teams encourages students to brainstorm and creatively problem solve.

Student handouts are provided to guide students through each activity; they include answers, where applicable. As with many engineering challenges, some questions are open-ended and thus, have multiple answers; in general, any answer is acceptable as long as it can be adequately justified.

The investigative, exploratory and problem solving nature of the unit is closely aligned with Colorado science standards 1, 2, 3 and 5 and mathematics standards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Unit Schedule

The ideal implementation of this curricular unit is for students to complete the activities in sequence. However, each activity is self-contained and can be conducted on its own.


Other Related Information

To set the scene and convey the nature of a rainforest at the beginning of the unit, show the class a video or photographs about the Amazon or another rainforest. Useful websites for information, maps and photos relating to rainforests and the Amazon include: and


© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2005 Colorado School of Mines

Supporting Program

Adventure Engineering, Colorado School of Mines


Adventure Engineering was supported by National Science Foundation grant nos. DUE 9950660 and GK-12 0086457. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: June 6, 2017