With millions of rain-forest acres disappearing each year, conservationists say it's high time to protect these tropical and temperate treasures. This Earth Day, why not make rain forests your focus of study? These precious ecosystems are a great way to add life to your earth-science curriculum. Start by delving into the informative articles in this Special Online Issue, then turn to the activities and reproducibles that follow to extend your unit.
Creature Card (PDF): Put a face on the rain, forest problem by inviting students to select and research a single forest animal. Using this ready-to-print "trading" card as a guide, have students find facts about the animal they choose. (The reproducible includes a starter list of forest animals; students may select from the list or choose an animal on their own.) Students can use Grolier Online resources presented in this site as well as other sites such as www.animalsoftherainforest.com. To complete the cards, encourage students to download photos of their animals or to try their own hand at illustration. Have students present their findings to the class.
Where Are Tropical Rain Forests? (PDF):
In this activity, students put their geography skills to the test as they use a map and key to locate the world's tropical rain forests. After completing the activity, students should demonstrate an understanding that tropical rain forests are near the Equator, between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
[Answers to reproducible: 1. B; 2. C; 3. A; 4. B; 5. B; 6. Answers will vary; possible answers include: near the Equator, between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, on several continents.]
Make a Study Outline (PDF): When tackling nonfiction passages like the ones in this online issue about rain forests, it can be helpful for students to create outlines or other graphic organizers. In this activity, we provide the skeleton of an outline for students to complete using our lead article. Please note that students can add additional numbered details to the outline if they choose by using the extra lines included under each section. In outlining the information offered about rain forests, students will identify the main ideas and important details of the passage. Encourage students to practice using this outlining technique with other texts.
Create a Canopy (Science Experiment): Rain forests are wet not only because they receive a lot of rain, but also because their vegetation "recycles" water. That is, the rain-forest canopy, or "roof," traps moisture inside the forest. To help students understand why a tropical rain forest is so steamy and wet, demonstrate the canopy effect using a healthy potted houseplant, a clear plastic bag, and a large rubber band or piece of tape. Water the plant, then place the plastic bag over the plant. Secure the edges of the bag to the pot with tape or the rubber band. Place the plant in a sunlit spot and observe for several days. (For a control, water a second plant but do not put a bag on top of it. Place it in the same spot as your bagged plant.) Have students record the results. What happens to the plastic bag? (Droplets of moisture form on it.) What part of the rain forest acts like the plastic bag in this experiment? (the top layer, or canopy)
Read All About It!
There are many great children's books about rain forests. Two to check out are:
Nature's Green Umbrella by Gail Gibbons (William Morrow & Co., 1994)
The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry (Harcourt Children's Books, 1990) Although this is a picture book, older readers will love hearing it read aloud just as much as younger kids.