I. Guide to Using the Make Your Own Chewing Gum Kit with a Group
Because this activity requires heat, a stove, hot plate or microwave is required. You will also need a cutting board (or other flat surface that can get dirty), spoons, a potholder, and a rolling pin or glass bottle.
The Gum Kit makes approximately 30 – 50 sticks of gum, depending how it is cut, so it provides plenty of gum for groups of up to 30 students. We recommend that the teacher or group leader heat the gum base and allow the students to help stir, knead and cut the gum. Older students may be allowed to work in groups to make the gum themselves, if appropriate.
II. Sample Lesson Plan for the Make Your Own Chewing Gum Kit
Grade Level: 6 – 8
Suggested Subjects: Science/ Ecology, Social Science, Economics
Introduction: Flexible – 15 minutes or more
Movie: 18 minutes (optional, see Resources for more information)
Gum-making Activity: 20 minutes
Clean-up and Assessment: 10 minutes
Students will learn about the rainforest and the people who inhabit it as they make a special treat – chewing gum! – with natural sap harvested from rainforest trees.
Students will learn about the location, climate and ecology of the rainforest.
Students will understand that many products come from the rainforest.
Students will learn about people who live in the rainforest and how they make a living.
Students will discover why it is important to protect our rainforests.
Students will make their own chewing gum from raw ingredients.
Students will make connections between the rainforest and their own lives.
Images of the rainforest, its flora and fauna, etc.
Make Your Own Chewing Gum Kit
Rolling Pin or bottle
Microwave or stove
A clean non-stick surface such as a cutting board
A few plastic spoons to stir with
Short documentary film “El Chicle” & a computer to play it on (optional; see our Educator’s Guide for more details)
Chicle – The natural sap of the Sapodilla tree, which grows in the rainforests of Central America
Chiclero – A person who harvests chicle by tapping the trees, much like one “taps” a maple tree for maple syrup.
Slash-and-burn Agriculture – The practice of cutting down and burning rainforest trees to clear space in which to plant crops. This practice results in the destruction of the rainforest, and yields such poor soil for agriculture that not much can grow.
Begin by talking about the rainforest. Make sure to cover where rainforests are located, the climate, the diversity of the species that live there, and the many uses for rainforest products in goods like medicines, rubber, and food. Explain how the rainforests are being rapidly depleted through logging and slash-and-burn agriculture. Highlight the dangers of losing this valuable ecosystem. Feel free to use our website as well as the linked sites as resources for more information.
Next you can discuss peoples who live in the rainforest and the difficulties they face there in making a living. Explain how these people need a source of income that does not harm the environment in which they live. Tell your students about the chicleros and their traditional harvesting methods of the Sapodilla tree, methods that do not harm the trees and allow them to be tapped year after year. One option is to show the short documentary film “El Chicle” about the harvest of chicle in Mexico. (Please note: this film contains subtitles, and is not recommended for grades lower than 6.)
Explain to your students that the rainforest is the source for something they like to eat – chewing gum. Tell them that they are going to see how chewing gum is made from raw ingredients like chicle from the Sapodilla tree or, in the case of the Gum Kit, natural rubber latex from rainforest rubber trees. Explain that the other ingredients – sugar and corn syrup – are also harvested from plants, and that these plants grow in the US. Explain how all of their food products come from different countries. If you have time to research in advance, you can even mark places on a large world map showing where different products are grown or produced, and the trade routes they use to get to us in the US.
Now, have the students use the Make Your Own Chewing Gum Kit to make chewing gum! First, make sure to show the kids all of the raw ingredients so they understand what is going into their chewing gum. These kits require a stove or microwave, so for younger students, it is best if the teacher does the first steps requiring heat, then divides up the gum base for the students to knead and add flavoring to. Give each student some gum and flavoring, and have them roll out the gum and cut it into their own shapes. See instructions included in the Make Your Own Chewing Gum Kit.
Have the students write a short paragraph explaining the connection between the chewing gum they made and the rainforest. Have them draw their own conclusions about why we should help protect our rainforests. For more of a challenge, have the students write about how the environment and the economy (or ways of making a living) are connected.
“El Chicle” DVD
18 minute film, in Spanish with English subtitles, about the harvest of chicle. Made in Mexico.
A great site, designed for kids, about Mayan culture. Includes information on chewing gum.
Plenty of background information about the rainforest.
More about Amazon forest ecology.
Links to many lesson plans about the rainforest for all grade levels.
Stories of real kids who live in rainforests around the world. Other pages on this site have rainforest-themed crafts and activities.
Information on the history of chewing gum throughout the world.
• Heating the gum base in the microwave works well, but be careful not to overheat or you may melt the plastic pan. Mixing often is key!
• Be very careful when working with the gum base/corn syrup mixture, as it is very sticky. Knead the mixture with sugar until it is safe for the children to handle.
• Show the gum base pellets to the students so that they can see what the natural rubber looks like. With small groups, you can give a pellet to each student to chew.
• Read through all instructions before you begin so you know what to expect.
• For large classes, roll the gum into small gumballs to yield the most individual pieces of gum.
• If you’d like to experiment with other flavors, try powdered Kool-Aid and Jell-O packs.
• Review the ingredients with parents beforehand to ensure that all children are allowed to eat the final product.
• Have fun!