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Teaching Materials for Elementary Level


Incorporating rainforest-related content into your curriculum is an interesting way to help kids learn math, science and social studies skills. Here are some suggestions for classroom activities:

  • Turn your classroom into a rainforest (have students draw and cut out plants and animals to hang around the classroom)
  • Making terrariums out of plastic bottles
  • Have students draw their favorite rainforest animals in their natural habitat and hang the drawings around the room
  • Print and distribute Rainforest Foundation’s word puzzles and in-class activities
  • Use key words to create a quiz on rainforest terms
  • Have students pick their favorite rainforest animal. Have them write a journal entry as if they were that animal living in the rainforest for a day. What makes this animal well suited to live in the rainforest (speed, agility, claws, teeth, beak etc.)?
  • Write letters to government officials or company leaders that exploit rainforest resources, asking them to stop deforestation in the rainforest or use sustainable natural resources.
  • Assign a rainforest book report

Incorporating rainforest-related content into your curriculum can also inspire kids to take action.  One of our superstar student volunteers, Josalyn, credits her first grade unit on rainforests as the impetus for her rainforest passion and activism.  Each year Josalyn’s first grade teacher, Mrs. Miller, does an integrated study with her class on rainforests. Mrs. Miller turns her first grade classroom into a jungle, with homemade vines and stuffed jungle animals.  Each child in the class picks a rainforest animal to research and to do a report about. Through this process the students learn about the importance of the rainforest as well as causes of its’ destruction. Through this integrated study Josalyn became passionate about protecting the rainforest and went on to hold a series of lemonade stands over the past 6 years to raise money for rainforest protection. So far Josalyn has raised over $10,000 to help save the rainforest


Rainforest Facts to Incorporate into Your Classroom Activities

Why is it called a rainforest?

Because of the high level of precipitation, or rain, these forests receive per year. To be considered a rainforest there must be an annual precipitation of at least 80 inches.

What kind of rainforests are there and how are they different? 

There are two types of rainforests: tropical and temperate. Tropical rainforests receive a higher average rainfall; some rainforests may receive up to 400 inches of precipitation per year. The average rainfall, however, is 160 inches. Tropical rainforests are very common close to the equator (0 degrees longitude). Temperate rainforests are quite rare and are mostly found near coastal, temperate regions, further away from the equator(such as in the Northeastern US, Northwestern US, Chile, Norway, New Zealand, etc.). Temperate rainforest receive an average of roughly 100 inches per year and are generally cool with seasonal fluctuations.

What is the equator?

The equator is an imaginary line that divides the earth’s northern and southern hemisphere. It is located at zero degrees latitude.

equatorWhere are rainforests found? Rainforests are all over the world, from North and South America, to Africa, Europe, Asia and even Australia.Tropical rainforests are located on a belt along the equator, almost always less than 23.5 degrees north or south of this imaginary line. 23.5 north of the equator is a line called “the Tropic of Cancer”, and the same distance south of the equator is labeled “Tropic of Capricorn”.Temperate rainforests are located between 25 and 50 degrees latitude, mostly in coastal areas.[educators can incorporate a lesson on longitude and latitude here, or quiz students on rainforest geography] How old are the rainforests? Tropical rainforests began developing roughly 200 million years ago. Temperate rainforests are relatively new, evolving roughly 40 million years ago.

What is deforestation? Deforestation is the cutting down or clearing of forest trees. Deforestation is one of the most critical global problems in the 21st century. Every second 1 acre of rainforest disappears.
Why is the Amazon rainforest experiencing deforestation? About 20% of the Amazon rainforest has been deforested. Forests have been cleared for mining, agriculture, cattle ranching, and logging (cutting down trees in order to sell them).
Who lives in the Amazon? Between 200,000- 350,000 indigenous people who comprise 400 indigenous groups live in, and depend on the Amazon. Exact figures are impossible to find, since some indigenous groups remain out of contact, remaining isolated in the rainforests for generations. Other Amazon residents are communities of non-indigenous peoples and mixed race communities as well.
What happened to the indigenous people of the Amazon?
Before the Europeans arrived in the New World in the 1400’s, about 7-10 million indigenous people lived in American rainforests; half of them lived in what is now Brazil. Great cities existed in the Andes, while the Amazon supported agricultural communities.The arrival of Europeans brought about the end of many native civilizations in Central and South America. Europeans carried diseases that killed millions of indigenous people, and within 100 years of the arrival of these outsiders, the population of indigenous peoples was reduced by 90%. Most of the surviving native people lived in the inner part of the forest, having been forcefully pushed there by the Europeans or having lived traditionally in remote areas and therefore protected from contact with the Europeans. Indigenous peoples in the Americas and around the globe are now fighting for their rights to continue living in the rainforests, and using and managing its natural resources, as they have in the past.[see original article here: http://kids.mongabay.com/elementary/304.html

baby-CapybaraWhich animals live in the Amazon?

More than half of the world’s plant and animal, and insect species live in tropical rainforests. Animals like the Macau, Jaguar, Panther, capybara, and Amazon River Dolphin, along with 40,000 plant species, 3,000 freshwater fish species,  and more than 370 types of reptiles all inhabit the Amazon rainforests.

There are thousands of species of insects, plants and animals which we still haven’t discovered. Many of these species are endangered due to loss of habitat, hunting, and poaching.

Did you know?

  •  An area of rainforest the size of a football field disappears every second
  • The trees of a tropical rainforest are so densely packed that rain falling on the canopy can take as long as 10 minutes to reach the ground.
  • Only 2% of sunlight reaches the forest floor. 80% of the sunlight is absorbed by the forest canopy.
  • 1.2 billion people rely on rainforests for their needs and livelihoods.
  • At least 50 million indigenous people around the world live in and depend on rainforests
  • Tropical rainforests only cover about 7% of the planet’s land area, and just 2% of the earth’s surface, but they are home to 50% of all living things.
  • 80% of all insects live in rainforests



Tributaries: A tributary is a stream or river that flows into and joins a main river. It does not flow directly into the sea. The place where the tributary and the main river meet is called a confluence.  http://education.nationalgeographic.com/encyclopedia/tributary/
Precipitation: The liquid and solid water particles that fall from clouds and reach the ground are known as precipitation. These particles include drizzle, rain, snow, snow pellets, ice crystals, and hail. http://education.nationalgeographic.com/encyclopedia/precipitation/
Temperate Rainforest: wooded areas in cool, temperate zones that receive high amounts of rainfall. http://kids.nceas.ucsb.edu/biomes/temperateforest.html
Tropical Rainforest: grouping of tall evergreen trees, usually close to the Equator, which receives more than 80 inches of rain a year.   http://www.globio.org/glossopedia/article.aspx?art_id=6
Deforestation:  Deforestation is the clearing or thinning of forests, the cause of which is normally implied to be human activity. Deforestation is one of the most significant issues in global land use in the early 21st century. http://kids.mongabay.com/lesson_plans/lisa_algee/deforestation.html
Logging: The work of cutting down trees for timber http://kids.mongabay.com/lesson_plans/lisa_algee/logging.html  
Indigenous: native to or characteristic of a specific place. http://kids.mongabay.com/elementary/301.html (For more Keywords, check our Rainforest Terms page.


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