Lesson 407: Favelas-Rio

The shanty towns for which Rio de Janeiro is famous (or notorious) play a pivotal role in the city’s cultural history. Favelas, as they are known, rise precipitously from near the ocean far up the hillsides. Often bereft of minimal municipal services, they are home to a rich cultural life, their own social organization, and along the way in their history, have provided the artistic and dramatic talent for Brazil’s most important international artistic contribution, Carnaval in Rio. We visit favelas and speak with residents there.

Learning Objective

Students will learn about the favelas and how they play a pivotal role in the cultural history of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Social Studies Standards

Culture: B, E

Discussion Prompts

  • Some Brazilian army veterans’ soldiers found themselves without a shelter after the wars and that is how the favelas started in Brazil. How are the veterans of civil or international wars treated in your region/country? Compare and contrast the treatment towards the veterans in both regions.
  • All the houses in Santa Marta’s Favela have water, electricity, and a number. How does that affect the identity, opportunities, and the way of living of the residents? How might lack of these basic amenities impact the other Favelas and/or other people?
  • How does the informal economy appear to work in the Favelas? Discuss the importance of this type of economy for the residents and for the municipality.
  • On the entrance wall of Santa Marta’s Favela there was a saying: “The rich want peace so they can keep on being rich. Favela’s people want peace so we can stay alive.” What might the rich and poor people infer from the saying? What information supports your view?

Lesson Activities

  • Imagine you were the family who built the first house at the top of the hill at the Favela Santa Marta. Write a letter letting your family know about your new residence, including details about the location. Remember that the residence had no address or number at that time, so create an address. 
  • Create a survey with at least ten different questions for your classmates to give you feedback to prioritize public health improvements in the Favelas.
  • Taking into consideration the limited space in the favelas, what other sports could you introduce to the youth at the Favelas? Use Instagram, Tweet, and TikTok to promote your idea.
  • You have been selected to collaborate with two other designers to create three costumes for the Imperatriz Samba School. The theme this year is Favelas. Imperatriz Samba School’s flag is gold, green and white. Display your drawings for your class to select the one that best represents the Favelas.


  • bereft
  • compelling
  • favela
  • innovations
  • laborious
  • municipality
  • notorious
  • precipitously
  • squatter
  • stunning


Lesson Plan