A Rainforest in Your Classroom
Build a rainforest in your classroom with a little imagination and some construction paper. Use tissue paper, paper bags, cardboard and papier-mache to make flowers, insects, animals, birds, and plants.
Learn about rainforest layers and place each animal in its forest habitat:
• Forest Floor (mostly empty except for tree trunks and leaf litter)—jaguars, ocelots, peccaries, tapirs, coral snakes
• Understory (beneath the trees, among the vines, ferns and tree trunks)—monkeys and margays
• Canopy (in the tree branches, among the vines, orchids, bromeliads)—sloths and butterflies
• Emergent Layer (tops of the tallest rainforest trees, like islands in a sea of green leaves)—toucans and blue morpho butterflies
• Rivers and streams—crocodiles and fish.
Make cutouts of leaves and hang them from the ceiling and on walls. Create a giant papier-mache tree and hang green and brown crepe-paper vines. Paint murals on kraft paper and attach them to walls with masking tape. Tape a kraft-paper river on your floor and fill it with crocodiles. Borrow a few philodendrons and other house plants. Play a rainforest sounds tape or some appropriate music.
Watch a video or read a book about rainforest animals. Try Really Wild Animals: Totally Tropical Rain Forest from National Geographic Video.
Or some books:
• Rainforest Animals by Paul Hess (ages 4 through 6)
• Life in the Rainforest: Plants, Animals, and People by Melvin Berger and Geoffrey Brittingham (grades 1 through 3)
• Rainforest Animals: With Foldout Rainforest, Natural Habitats edited by Penguin, USA, illustrated by Galante, Boni, and Alderton (ages 7 through 9)
• Life in the Rainforests: Animals, Peoples, Plants by Lucy Baker (ages 7 through 12)
Ask students to pick a favorite rainforest animal to draw. As a class, write poems and stories about your animals.
At West Elementary School, in West Liberty, Iowa, Ms. Ruch’s second grade class wrote:
When you go to the Rain Forest what do you see?
I see an eagle looking at me.
A vulture, dive-bombing its prey.
And a pale-billed woodpecker finding its way.
The spotted jaguar is sneaking up on its enemy.
A beautiful blue morpho butterfly soars down towards me.
The capuchins are hanging around.
A bird-eating spider covers its ground.
When you go to the Rain Forest, respect what you see.
Love all the animals, and let the trees be free.
We Love the Rainforests!
Work together as a class to create a poem as wonderful as this one.
Start with the same first line, “When you go to the rainforest what do you see?” Collect a lot of answers and add some descriptive words—action verbs and adjectives. Ask for suggestions for rhyming words as they’re needed. Slowly put your “lines” in order. When it’s time to end your poem, ask students to say what they feel about the rainforest and what they wish for it.
You can write as many poems as you have first lines. Try, “My wish for the rainforest is let it be free” or “Who is that animal looking at me?”
Rainforest Rain Stick
Find a long paper tube from a roll of paper towels or wrapping paper. Pierce it all over with long toothpicks (all the way through). Tape one end shut and put a handful or two of dried lentils into the tube. Then tape the other end shut. Tip it from end to end to hear “rain” fall. Decorate your rain stick with colored paper, paint, or crayons.
Another great activity from Sallie Phelps.
Rubber comes from rubber trees grown in tropical climates. Natural latex oozes out of the tree when it is cut. Rubber trappers collect the latex in cups. Rubber is an extractive resource, which means that rubber can be removed without damaging the forest. Other products that can be removed from the forest without damaging it include ylang-ylang flowers (used to make perfume), wicker, rattan, palm oil, cashews, and Brazil nuts.
What you’ll need for each student or small group:
• A paper cup into which one tablespoon of latex has been added. You can order liquid latex online from Life-Casting.com or call them at 866-278-6653. Their 32 ounce Rub-R-Mold (enough to make 50 balls) is $19.95.
• A paper cup of water
• A paper cup of vinegar
• Food coloring (optional but fun)
• Tablespoon measures
• Popsicle sticks or coffee stirrers
• A plastic sandwich bag
What to do:
1. 1 tablespoon of latex into a paper cup. Dip the end of your finger in the latex and experience how it feels.
2. Measure 1 tablespoon of water and stir it into the latex with your stick.
3. Add 2 or 3 drops of food coloring (be careful not to overdo it).
4. Stir the mixture.
5. Observe closely as you add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and stir.
6. Rinse your rubber ball at the sink to remove extra latex and vinegar. You may wish to dry the ball with a paper towel.
7. After you’ve observed your rubber ball, put it in a small bag to keep.
1. Describe in detail any changes you noticed when you added vinegar to your mixture of water and latex.
2. Describe your rubber ball. What does it do when you drop it or toss it gently against a wall?
3. What other things are made with rubber? List as many as you can.
Rainforest in a Bottle
What you need:
• A 3 liter plastic soda bottle with a separate bottom
• Bird gravel (available at a pet supply place)
• Charcoal (the type used for aquarium filters)
• Potting soil
• Plastic wrap
• One small rainforest plant per child (suggestions include: prayer plant, strawberry begonia, baby tears, philodendron, aluminum plant, peperomias, artillery plant)
• Duct tape
An adult needs to do the first few steps. Remove the label from the soda bottle. Plunge the bottom of the bottle into a pot of almost boiling water to soften the glue, and then separate the 2 sections. With scissors, cut away the top part of the bottle just before it stops flaring out, and recycle. Save the rest.
Line the inside of the bottle bottom with plastic wrap that has been folded over several times. Spread about an inch of bird gravel on the plastic wrap, and then spread a thin layer of charcoal over this. Fill to within an inch of the top with potting soil. With your finger, create a hole in the center of the soil, and plant your plant. Pour about 1 cup of water around the plant, and carefully fit the clear part of the bottle into the bottom section. Use duct tape to seal the pieces together, and place in a spot that receives indirect light. The “rainforest” never needs watering, and lasts through the entire year.
Rainforest Treasure Hunt
Here are some tastes, smells and textures that come from rainforests. Be sure to talk about all the important uses. A great idea from Sallie Phelps.
Rainforest Foods and Products
Spices: Cinnamon | Black Pepper | Nutmeg | Cayenne | Ginger | Chili Pepper | Vanilla | Cardamom | Paprika | Cloves | Sesame Seeds
Food: Avocado | Cocoa and Chocolate | Lemon | Orange | Banana | Coconut | Lime | Mango | Pineapple | Cashew Nut | Coffee | Cola | Brazil Nut | Peanut
Fun and Useful Things: Balsa Wood | Jute (twine) | Rubber Band | Pencil Eraser | Balloon | Bamboo | Rubber Stamp | Rubber Ball | Rattan | Quinine
Pretty Things: Ylang-ylang Flower | African Violet | Parakeet or Parrot | Rubber Plant | Christmas Cactus | Philodendron | Orchid
Can your class think of other things that come from the rainforest? How many of these can your students find at home? Print this list or create your own. Assign a check-off scavenger hunt and get parents involved in the fun.
Rainforest Smells Identification Game
Select four or five fragrant tropical products like lemon peel, pineapple, coconut, chocolate, coffee, or bay rum. Place a small portion of each in an empty film canister. Cover with a small cloth square and secure with a rubber band. Ask children to guess the scents!
Jungle Jumble Recipe
Make a batch of Jungle Jumble and taste the rainforest. Thanks to Sallie Phelps!
1 cup peanuts
1 cup Brazil nuts
1 cup cashew nuts
1 cup slivered coconut
1 cup pineapple
1 cup dried banana chips
1 cup dried papaya
1 cup dried mango
Mix all ingredients together in a large container with a lid.
More fun: explore fractions by varying the measurements of some ingredients. For example: reduce papaya and mango to 1/2 cups, increase banana and pineapple to 3/4 cups.
Tropical Popcorn Crunch
2 ounces flaked coconut
4 ounces dried pineapple cut into small pieces
2 ounces dried dates or raisins, diced
2 quarts air popped popcorn
Combine the following in a large punch bowl.
1 quart orange juice
1 quart pineapple juice
1 quart lemon soda
Before serving add:
1 quart vanilla ice cream or lemon sherbet
1. Peel 16 bananas and cut in half.
2. Insert a popsicle stick in the cut end
3. Dip into melted chocolate chips and then roll in flaked coconut.
4. Chill the bananas before serving.
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups ripe bananas, mashed (about 4 bananas)
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease and flour a 9” x 5” loaf pan
3. Mix together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, set aside
4. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the mashed bananas and the vanilla.
5. Stir the dry ingredients into the banana mixture. Add chips and mix by hand. 6. Pour batter into the loaf pan
7. Bake for 55-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan for 1/2 hour and then remove from pan to cool completely.