What Is A Rainforest

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SWBAT understand what makes a rainforest a special habitat for many animals.

Big Idea

The rainforest is a unique habitat that is home to millions of plants and animals, each with its own way of adapting to the environment

I Can Statement and Introduction

20 minutes

I want to introduce students to a new habitat today. The idea is for students to gain an understanding of several habitats, including those that are not found in their own part of the country. Students began with the familiar habitats and have looked at the diversity of plant and animal life in those environments. Now they are ready to compare those habitats to one that is not familiar. Using videos and books, children will be transported to the new habitat.

I ask students to read the I can statement with me. It reads, "I can find out about the different parts of a rainforest." 

I ask, "does anyone know what a rainforest is?" (I know that students have read about rain forests and rain forest animals on their own so we brainstorm what we already know.) Sharing What We Already Know About the Rainforest "You all seem to know quite a bit about the rainforest. Today we are going to try to figure out the differences in 4 distinct habitats within the rainforest. I am going to read you a fictional story called 'The Kapok Tree' by Lynn Cherry today. Listen to her story about the rainforest and all the animals that live there and why each of their habitats is important. 

I read the story and follow it with a time to discuss the things that students were wondering about the book. 

Now I say, "today we will be watching a video about the rainforest and the animals there. This will give you another chance to see what the rainforest is like. Pay attention to the different habitats in the rainforest."

Video Introduction

15 minutes

There are many good videos about the rainforest. Magic School bus has a Trip to The Rainforest. I have also listed a link to a video below.  

What is a Rainforest:



I use one of these videos to give students a tour of the rainforest. It is possible to use several over the course of 2 days to help students understand even more about the 4 parts of the rainforest.

At the end of the video I ask, "Can you tell me about the 4 habitats that are found in the rainforest?"

I want students to develop an understanding that a rainforest is a place with over 80 inches of rainfall a year.

It is a place divided into 4 distinct parts:

1.the emergent layer where tall trees are well above the canopy. This area receives full sunshine and rainfall.

2. the canopy which is a layer of leaves and branches that can be up to 100 feet about the ground where many of the rainforest animals live,

3. the understory layer where plants grow up to 12 feet tall and try to reach the sunlight. It is darker here and many animals find shelter in this layer.

4. the forest floor where it is dark and damp. Little sunlight reaches the forest floor and few plants can grow here. Many animals can not survive in this dark and damp environment.

As students mention different parts of the rainforest, I write them on the board. If they do not mention all 4, I ask questions that will help them remember what the different layers are like. I provide the names of the layers as needed. 

Making A Rainforest Picture

20 minutes

Once students have discussed the layers of the rainforest, I tell them that today they will make a picture and label the 4 layers of the rainforest. They will draw their picture and label each portion of the rainforest. They should think about the differences between the 4 layers of the rainforest. 

I hand out large 12 x 18 white paper.  I demonstrate holding the paper the long way so they have room to show the 4 layers of the rainforest. On the board I draw a sketch of the tall trees (Emergent layer), the canopy, the understory, and the forest floor. I do not add detail because I want students to put that detail in from their own understanding. My drawing is basically a few trees, some connected leaves, and the base.

I say, "I have drawn a very basic idea of the rainforest layers here to help you get an idea of what you need to do on your paper. I would like you to add detail to your picture. You can add color, animals, other plants, flowers, or whatever else you think might be found in each layer of the rainforest. Be sure to label your layers." I ask for questions and have 1 child repeat the directions so I am sure that they are clear before students begin their work.

I circulate around the room to ask students about their drawings as they work. Describing a Rainforest Picture I use their drawings and comments to assess student understanding of the diversity of habitats and animals in the rainforest.

I display the pictures for all students to see and invite all students to take a few minutes to look at the drawings as a way to end this lesson.