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The History of Bananas: Naw, Naw, Not Bananas


Students will unpeel the truth behind the banana industry with how it came to dominate the markets today. There are many interesting components that encompass this lesson such as the history of bananas and even the scientific elements such as genetically cloning the banana and the environmental consequences of using pesticides and fungicides on monoculture crops. Students will understand the role of different actors and also demonstrate the breadth and depth of U.S. imperialism on foreign countries and the devastating impacts on the environment.

Essential Questions

  • What is the environmental impact of pesticides?

  • What is US imperialism and what are the impacts of it?

  • How did the banana industry come to dominate the food market?

  • What are the environmental impacts of the banana industry and how do they connect to US imperialism?

Learning Objectives

  • Students will analyze how America’s dominance never ended in Latin America and how it impacts globalization. 

  • Students will be able to examine the impacts of globalization, neoliberalism, colonialism on the environment and communities. 

  • Students will question the loss of biodiversity, overuse of agrochemicals, and contemporary challenges with cultivating bananas.

Learning Standards

Please contact us for the state learning standards for this lesson.



60-70 minutes


  • Hegemony 

  • Globalization 

  • Imperialism

  • Capitalism

  • Market

  • Agrochemicals

Learning Tasks

Warm-Up (10 min):

Goal: Students will begin to draw conclusions about imperialism, environmental racism, and food waste.

Warm-Up Prep: 

Set up the Naw, Naw, Not Bananas Story Map on the projector/Smart Board.

Warm-Up Task(s):

Step 1 (10 min): The facilitator will walk students through the story map to set students up for the following activities. 

Activity 1 (35 min): Analyzing the Banana Industry

Goal: Students will engage with multiple pieces of media to establish the foundation for their study of the ties between imperialism, climate change, and environmental racism.

Activity 1 Prep:

  1. Print-outs of “Did a pesticide used on fruit farms in Nicaragua poison people?”

  2. Video for this activity is at the bottom of the article

Activity 1 Tasks:

Step 1 (5 min): Students read the article in groups OR read the article whole-class. Encourage students to circle the words from the vocab list if they see them. 

Step 2 (15 min): Facilitator plays the video for the whole class. 

Step 3 (5 min):  Whole-class discussion about the article and video using 2-3 of these discussion questions:

  • What are the injustices and issues that impact the communities that produce our products?

  • How do you think the chemicals have lingering effects on the environment and the population? 

  • How can you spread awareness about the unethical behavior of banana industries and the lasting effects of agrochemicals on the environment and population? What do you see as potential ways to support this campaign? 

Activity 2 (15 min): Deepening our Research

Goal: Students conduct their own research to deepen their analysis of the harmful effects of pesticides and Global South communities. 

Activity 2 Prep:

  1. 1:1 devices or 1 device per group (laptop or tablet)

  2. Loose-leaf paper

  3. Writing utensil

  4. Choose 1 of these 3 articles to supplement research during this activity:

  5. Costa Rica banana workers affected by Nemagon still waiting on compensation

  6. 40 Years of Struggle: The Scars of Nemagon

  7. Nemagon, The Pesticide That Kills People

Activity 2 Tasks:

Step 1 (10 min): After passing out an article about it, ask students to begin conducting their own research on Nemagon. They can type out their facts or record them on a piece of paper. 

Note: If students have 1:1 devices, they can conduct research alone. If they are sharing, have them conduct research in a group. 

Step 2: Students can use the following questions to help them in their research:

  • What are the injustices and issues that impact the communities that produce our products?

  • How do you think the chemicals have lingering effects on the environment and the population?

  • What are the communities most affected by Nemagon doing to resist?

Wrap-Up (10 min): 

Goal: Students discuss their findings and answer the discussion questions. 

Wrap-Up Prep


Wrap-Up Tasks

Step 1 (5 min): Students discuss their findings in small groups/ a turn and talk. 

Step 2 (5 min): Students answer the discussion questions:

  • Do you think if Americans knew about the effects that the banana industry has on the environment and people living near these plantations that they would take action?

  • What are the obstacles that you see with addressing the challenges that these countries face? 

  • What other crops, plantations, and industries cause the kind of environmental and social problems as the banana industry?

Supplemental Lessons


Black Sigatoka of Banana: The most important disease of a most important fruit by Randy Ploetz 

E.P.A. Chief, Rejecting Agency’s Science, Chooses Not to Ban Insecticide By Eric Lipton

BANANAS UNPEELED!  By Letitia Chabonneau

There Will Be Bananas

Market Mad House by Daniel Workman

Bananas Exports by Country by Daniel Workman



Loss of Chlorpyrifos from Plastic Bags used in Commercial Banana Production

Loss of Chlorpyrifos from Plastic Bags used in Commercial Banana Production Russ L Altabtabaee, Oshea Chaudhary, Cassandra Clement, Beth Polidoro*

The Deadly Side of America’s Banana Obsession by Madison Stewart


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