This page lists all teacher notes for this lesson. Individual notes can be accessed on the main Teacher Notes page.
On the website home page, students meet Melli, a capuchin monkey, and hear a definition of the word rainforest. Once they click the arrow, students are in the introductory activity, where they get a glimpse of some of the animals and plants that live in the tropical rainforest.
After the students have explored the Web page, lead a class discussion about what students saw and heard on the screen. Then, introduce a KWL chart to help your students organize their thinking about the rainforest. You can do this by hanging up three sheets of poster paper on your classroom wall and labeling the first one K (What We Know), W (What We Want to Know), and L (What We Learned). Begin by asking students what they know and want to know about the rainforest, and listing their ideas and questions under the appropriate headings. Revisit the KWL chart throughout the lesson to record new information about what students have learned and to keep track of new questions that come up.
What Is a Rainforest?
In this activity, students will explore an interactive storybook. After listening to the story, they will be able to identify the characteristics of the rainforest and its different layers. Before talking about the details of the story, discuss with your students what characteristic means. What are the characteristics of a teacher, a classroom, etc., and then ask them about the characteristics of the rainforest. Note that important key words are defined in the student resources section. Review these key words with students as they explore the lesson.
Students will learn that the rainforest is a habitat for many different types of animals. (An animal habitat is a place where an animal lives, and animals depend on the land, water and air in their habitats to live and grow.) They will also see examples of rainforest animals and plants.
After your students have explored the interactive story, take some time to discuss what they have learned. Ask them what they remember from the story about the weather in the rainforest, the different parts of the rainforest, and the animals and plants that live there. Be sure to introduce the idea of habitat. Your students should know that a habitat is a place where an animal or plant lives, and it has to provide everything an animal or plant needs to survive. Ask your students what they already know about animal and plant needs. For animals, students may share ideas about air, water, space, food and shelter. For plants, they may share ideas about air, water and light, and they may also mention compost, fertilizer or "plant food"—nutrients that plants need to live and grow. All of these things are necessary. Tell your students that in this lesson, your class will focus on animals' needs for food, water and shelter.
After the discussion, pass out the students' Rainforest Detective Notebooks. Let them know that they will be acting as detectives in this lesson to explore and learn about the rainforest. In that role, they will need to use their notebooks to record what they learn. Ask students to turn to page 1. They will need to cut out pictures of four different rainforest animals and paste the animals where they live in the rainforest (above the canopy, in the canopy, below the canopy or on the forest floor). For advanced learners, the proper terms for the layers of the rainforest can be used (overstory (above the canopy), canopy, understory (area directly below the canopy) and forest floor).
If you would like to extend the activity, you may collect some books about the rainforest and read them aloud with your students.
Rainforest Detective: Food in the Rainforest
In this activity, students will explore how animals in the rainforest meet their needs for food. They will first roll over pictures of rainforest animals to learn about what they eat. Then, they will match pictures of animals with pictures of the foods they eat in their Rainforest Detective Notebooks.
Students should complete the activities on pages 2 and 3 in their notebooks as they explore the online resource. They may do this at their desks if your entire class will be exploring together on a large computer screen or interactive whiteboard. If students need to move to a computer station or computer lab, they will need to take their notebooks, scissors, glue and a pencil with them.
Keep in mind that there may be vocabulary that is new to students in this activity. You may need to explain that when hummingbirds "hover," they float in the air without moving forward or backward. (You may even wish to have students act out this behavior to really bring it home!) Another word that may be new is "fungus." Explain to students that a fungus is a living thing that is neither a plant nor an animal. Examples of fungi that students may be familiar with are mushrooms, yeast and mold.
When students have finished matching the animals with the foods they eat, lead a class discussion about the animals that the children found hidden in the rainforest. Some animals may be familiar (frog, hummingbird) and some may be unfamiliar (tapir, capuchin monkey). You may wish to compare unfamiliar animals to animals that are more familiar to children (for example, tapirs, like pigs, use their long snouts to move the dirt, branches, grasses and other obstacles in the environment in order to find the food they need). You may point out that animals have relationships with plants and other animals based on what they eat. (For example, hummingbirds have a relationship with flowers because the hummingbirds eat nectar from the flowers.)
If you would like to extend the activity, you may gather some books about the rainforest and read them aloud.
Rainforest Detective: Who Lives Here?
In this activity, students will explore how animals in the rainforest meet their needs for shelter. All animals seek shelter for protection from the weather and from predators. Some animals have a specific area that they return to, like an ant's nest or a tree hollow where a toucan sleeps at night. Other animals, like tapirs, may not have areas that they return to—instead, they may run to thick shrubbery or to water for shelter from predators. Students will see examples of both types of shelter in this activity.
Before viewing, you may wish to introduce the idea of shelter by having students brainstorm about shelters that people use—like houses, hotels and tents. You may also ask students to provide examples of how animals in their own neighborhoods find shelter—like chipmunks that live in underground burrows, for example, or wasps or birds that build nests in the eaves of buildings.
Rainforest Detective: Who Lives Here? Game
After students have completed the activity, have them turn to page 4 in their Rainforest Detective Notebooks. This page contains a printout of the completed activity showing each animal in its shelter. Ask them what they learned about how animals find shelter in their habitats, and if they learned anything that surprised them.
As students share their thinking, update your KWL chart with new ideas and questions. If you have not already updated your KWL chart to include student ideas about animals and how they find food in the rainforest, you can update your chart with student ideas on this topic as well.
Rainforest Detective: Water For Everyone
In this activity, students will explore how animals in the rainforest meet their needs for water in their habitat. When they are finished with the activity, ask students to turn to page 5 of their Rainforest Detective Notebooks. This page contains an illustration of the rainforest featuring different water sources: rainwater collected in a plant, a river on the forest floor, and dewdrops on leaves. Ask students to circle the different water sources they see.
After they have completed the worksheet, initiate a more in-depth discussion with students about the meaning and importance of a habitat. Explain that many plants and animals cannot survive outside of their natural habitats. Sometimes, they cannot get the food and shelter they need. The weather might be too hot or too cold in a different habitat. Or, there may be predators from whom they cannot protect themselves. These are just a few reasons why habitats are so important to the animals that live there.
Needing Each Other
In this activity, students will consider how animals and plants in the rainforest are connected to each other.
This video runs about one-half hour. You could focus on the interdependence clip, which is from 8:14-12:23.
After watching the clip of "Kratts' Creatures" , start a whole-class discussion with your students. Ask them:
- How are the ants in the video connected to the trees? (The ants live inside the tree thorns, and protect the tree from other insects that might eat its leaves.)
- How are hummingbirds in the video connected to flowers? (The hummingbirds drink the flower nectar, and spread pollen from flower to flower.)
- How are the toucans in the video connected to the trees? (The toucans eat fruit that grows on the trees.)
Next, ask students to come up with their own examples of how animals and plants in the rainforest are connected to each other. They can draw from the video or from the information they have previously recorded in their Rainforest Detective Notebooks. Add their ideas to the KWL chart.
If you wish, you can include an exploration of how humans are connected to the rainforest. Discuss with your students how people use rainforest plants to make medicines and use rainforest wood to make furniture. Explain that we eat many foods that come from the rainforest. You may even wish to bring in food from the rainforest to share with children—like pineapple, mango, bananas and chocolate. If there are concerns about sharing food in your classroom, you may instead ask children to smell spices from the rainforest. Examples of rainforest spices are cinnamon, allspice, paprika, cloves and vanilla. You may explain to children that some people live in the rainforest, and they depend on it for their habitat as well.
If you would like to extend the activity further, you may gather some books on interdependence and the rainforest and read them aloud to your class.
Students will explore the importance of rainforest trees in this activity and will consider the effects of deforestation on different rainforest animals.
Assist students with playing the video. Once they click the video link, they will need to click View. Alternatively, you may project the video on a screen for the whole class to view at once. After students have viewed the video, ensure that they understand the meaning of the term deforestation. Also discuss with students the causes of deforestation. Drought, forest fire and disease can kill trees naturally, but most deforestation is caused by humans who burn or cut down the rainforest so that they can use the land for farming, mining or ranching.
Help students to brainstorm about how the animals they have been studying depend on trees for their survival, and how they might be affected by deforestation. You may prompt them with some of the following questions:
- How do hummingbirds depend on trees? (Hummingbirds build nests in trees and use tree leaves for shelter. They also drink nectar from flowers that grow on trees, and they eat bugs that depend on trees for food.)
- How do tapirs depend on trees? (Tapirs eat tree leaves and sometimes use areas with small trees or thick shrubs for shelter.)
- How do red-eyed tree frogs depend on trees? (Red-eyed tree frogs live in trees, use tree leaves for shelter, and eat bugs that depend on trees for food.)
- How do leafcutter ants depend on trees? (Leafcutter ants use tree leaves to grow fungus, their only food source.)
- How do toucans depend on trees? (Toucans live in holes in trees, and eat fruit that grows on trees.)
- How do capuchin monkeys depend on trees? (Capuchin monkeys live in trees and use tree leaves for shelter. They also eat fruit that grows on trees, and eat other animals that depend on trees for food.)
Preserving the Rainforest
In this activity, students will learn how people can help protect the animals and plants that live in the rainforest from deforestation.
Start a discussion with students. Ask them what trees need to grow (water and sunlight). Next, ask students for their ideas about what people can do to prevent deforestation. Let them know that efforts are underway to declare large parts of the rainforest off-limits to development, and to replant trees and forests that have been previously destroyed.
Sum up the activities on deforestation and preservation by adding students' ideas to the KWL chart you started at the beginning of the lesson.
Plan a Rainforest Habitat
In this activity, students will use what they have learned in the lesson so far to plan and create a virtual habitat for a rainforest animal of their choosing. The habitat must meet the animal's needs for water, food and shelter.
Begin by breaking your students into groups of 2 or 3 children. Show and explain the graphic of the engineering design process on page 6 in their Rainforest Detective Notebooks. Explain that they will be following these steps as they create their animal habitats. Then have students watch the following videos to learn more about the process engineers use to solve problems. Ask students to think about how they can use this same approach in designing their habitats.
(from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
On the NASA page, select from a video format listed on the right.
> Perfect Fit
(National Defense Education Program: Lab TV)
Next, ask students to turn to page 7 of their Rainforest Detective Notebooks. Students should begin by selecting an animal and drawing a picture of it in their notebooks. Alternatively, they can cut out and paste a picture of the animal in their notebooks (pictures of all animals can be found on pages 11-16 in their notebooks). Then, ask students to brainstorm in their small groups about what this animal might need in its habitat. Have your students examine the pictures of water, plants, insects, etc., that appear on page 10. You may ask them to classify which items might be useful in building habitats for particular animals in the rainforest.
Next, have students work with their groups to cut and paste the things that their animals will need to survive. Facilitate small group discussion among students, and ask them to explain why each item they selected is important for their habitat. If students have trouble remembering what their animals need in terms of food, shelter and water, have them refer back to earlier pages in their Rainforest Detective Notebooks.
Looking ahead to the next activity, Build a Rainforest, students will continue following the engineering design process and use the Habitat Builder Tool to create their virtual habitats. You will need to take your students to the computer lab, or if you have access to a computer in your classroom, work with each group at the computer station.
The correct choices for each animal's habitat are shown below.
Correct choices for food:
Tapir: leaves, fruit
Toucan: lizards, eggs, fruit
Leafcutter Ant: fungus on leaves
Hummingbird: bugs, nectar
Capuchin Monkey: fruit, lizard, bird
Red-eyed tree frog: bugs
Correct choices for water sources:
Toucan: water of leaves, fruit
Leafcutter Ant: water on leaves, puddle
Capuchin Monkey: water on leaves, pond
Red-eyed tree frog: pond
Correct choices for shelter:
Tapir: large pond with leaf clusters on the ground
Toucan: hole in tree
Leafcutter Ant: hole in a mound of dirt
Hummingbird: cluster of leaves including a bird's nest
Capuchin Monkey: cluster of branches in a tree with leaves
Red-eyed tree frog: cluster of large leaves in a tree
Build a Rainforest Habitat
In this activity, students will continue following the engineering design process and use this tool to create their virtual habitats. When each group is confident in the choices they made for planning their animal habitats in their Rainforest Detective Notebooks, work with them to create and submit their habitats using this tool. Students should use their Rainforest Detective Notebook as a guide, replicating the animal and resources they have already cut and pasted into their notebooks. If your class is sharing one computer, work with each group to complete a successful habitat before calling up the next group.
The first part of the Builder Tool asks students to identify their animal by clicking on it.
The second part of the tool asks students to choose pictures of items that their animal eats. If students need help, refer them to the choices they made in their notebooks on page 8.
The third part of the tool asks students to identify pictures of water sources.
The fourth part of the tool asks students to identify pictures of shelter for their animals.
The fifth part of the tool is a “Survival Test” and determines whether the students’ habitats were built with the appropriate items for their animals to live. Once students click “Test” on the Survival Test screen, they will receive immediate feedback. If students do not pass the Survival Test, they will be prompted to try again. Before students click the “Try Again” button, have them return to page 8 in their Rainforest Detective Notebooks to record the items that were correct and those that were incorrect in the tool. Students may place a check mark next to pictures of items that they chose correctly and place an X next to pictures of items that the tool marked as wrong. Assist students as they transfer this information from the tool to their notebooks. After students have recorded this information, they should click the “Try Again” button and use the notebook as a reference when they make new choices. (Students will get three chances before they are presented with the correct habitat that shows proper choices for food, water and shelter.)
Be sure to discuss with students how well their habitat scored in the Survival Test, and encourage them to think of any problems with their habitats and possible modifications.
For students who do not complete the assignment successfully, remind them that in the engineering design process, it often takes several tries to come up with a successful design. Encourage them to think about what they have learned about habitats and what animals need to survive.
This activity helps to ensure that students understand what animals need to survive, how plants and animals in the rainforest are connected, and what a habitat is. Encouraging students to explain to their team members or partners why they made each choice in the Builder Tool will help to assess these essential questions.
After students finish building the habitat, revisit the KWL chart one last time with your students, and assess their understanding of all the lesson's "essential questions.” Ask the following questions as prompts, adding their answers to the "What We Learned" chart.
1. What is a habitat?
2. What is a tropical rainforest? Describe what it's like.
3. What do all animals need to survive?
4. How are plants and animals in the rainforest connected?
5. What is deforestation?
6. What is preservation?
7. How can people help preserve the tropical rainforest habitat?
Add any new understandings that students share to your KWL chart. Afterward, compare what students knew at the beginning of the lesson (the "K" chart) to their understanding at the end of the lesson (the "L" chart) — and encourage the children to reflect on how much they have learned about rainforests and animal habitats over the course of the lesson.
Standards Addressed: ETS1.A