Living Organisms in the Rainforest

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SWBAT identify the relationship between plants and animals that live in the rainforest.

Big Idea

A wide variety of living organisms exist in the rainforest!


This lesson addresses Essential Standard 1.L.1.2, "Give examples of how the needs of different plants and animals can be met by their environments in North Carolina or different places throughout the world." We have already learned about lots of those environments through our study of habitats. Now, we are going to study the rainforest and the plants and animals that live there as a class to take a closer look at the relationship between living things. Using the book The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry as a foundation,  this lesson supports Essential Standard 1.L.1.3, "Summarize ways that humans protect their environment and/or improve conditions for the growth of the plants and animals that live there (e.g., reuse or recycle products to avoid littering)". Click here to hear why I teach the Essential Standards.

In addition, this lesson supports RL 1.1, asking and answering questions about key details in a text because students will be using the key details to create their model of the Kapok tree.

I post an essential question for each lesson. Although this is a requirement by my county, I also find it very helpful to keep me focused on the objectives for the day as I teach each lesson. Today's question is "What is the relationship between plants and animals in the rainforest environment?"


*Book - The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

*Crayons, markers, pencils, etc.

*One piece of chart paper (large) for each group of 3-4 students

Warm Up

15 minutes

To begin this lesson, I read The Great Kapok tree to my class. An alternative is to watch the story as a video. The story is about a man who is trying to cut down a tree in the rainforest and takes a nap. As he naps, different animals approach him and give a reason why the great tree should not be cut down. At the end, he awakens and decides to leave the tree to grow.

The reason I chose this book for this lesson is to review basic needs of living organisms and to emphasize the relationship between plants and animals. This book does a beautiful job of giving multiple examples of how the forest animals rely upon the tree.

We have a quick Discussion of Kapok Tree which supports RL 1.1, asking and answering key details from a text. We also discuss the message of the book - not to cut down trees because it impacts all of the animals living there, too - which supports RL 1.2, retelling stories to demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.


20 minutes

For the activity, I allow students to choose their own small groups of 3-4 students today. Sometimes I choose their groups to make sure that they have students who get along or who can read the material, but since I read the book to them in the Warm Up that is not so important today. Also, sometimes, the best work comes from when my students work with their friends because it allows them a chance to really enjoy the learning! I say,

"Today, you are going to work in a group of 3-4 students. Each group will get a large sheet of chart paper and your job is to recreate the Great Kapok Tree. Then, you are going to draw and label as many animals as you can that live in this habitat. Who can remind us of one of those animals that you saw in the story?"

Students recall the information from the story to prepare to create their poster. Then, I say,

"As you work, if you think of other plants or animals that might live in the rainforest and you want to check, I have some non-fiction books that you can look at to make sure you are correct before you add it to the poster".

Then, each group finds a place to work in the classroom and uses their own crayons, pencils, and other materials to create their poster together. As students begin to work, I put on some rainforest sound effects for them to listen to. This helps to really get them excited about working on this project and may also spark additional ideas for their poster.

Science and Engineering Practice 4, 'Analyzing and Interpreting Data', includes recording information (observations, thoughts, and ideas), using and sharing pictures, drawings, and/or writings of observations, which this activity aligns to as students use their new knowledge about living organisms in the rainforest to create their posters together.

Wrap Up

5 minutes

After about 20 minutes, when students have completed their posters, I collect the posters and put them up in front of our carpet meeting space and ask my students to join me on the carpet. At this point, the students have lots of examples of interdependence in front of them with their drawings! I say,

"We have lots of examples of interdependence in front of us. Let's come up with our own definition of interdependence based on the rainforest and the examples you put on your posters. Let's start with the word 'depend' - what does that mean? That's right - it means you can trust someone and you need them. And the prefix 'inter' means 'connect' or 'between', like the 'internet' connecting lots of resources and people. So what could we say 'interdependence' is when we talk about living organisms?"

This definition comes from a conversation about the word, based on the examples from the posters. In the end, I want my students to come up with something like, "Interdependence means the way that plants and animals need each other in a habitat". I write their definition on a card and add it to our science word wall.

To end the lesson, I say,

"Turn to a neighbor and give them an example of interdependence in our schoolyard and answer our guiding question for today, which is 'What is the relationship between plants and animals in the rainforest?"

Communicating about ideas supports Science and Engineering Practices 8 and also provides another opportunity for students to share their knowledge.

Look at my student's posters as I Reflect of Student Interest.