A Tree in Levels / Be The Rainforest / Rainforest Variations on Other Lessons
Rainforest Lessons
The following lessons were developed (or adapted from other sources) for my Jr. Kindergarten classes, who study the rainforests for a month each spring.  However, I should think most would work as well or better with older students.  A certain amount of rainforest knowledge is necessary to really teach these lessons well, but such knowledge is not difficult to come by.  In particular it is a good idea to understand the basic 4 levels of the rainforest, and to have a pretty good idea which animals live in which levels.  When I work with Jr. Kindergarten I don't worry about keeping New World and Old World animals distinct--I don't mind if our rainforest contains both tigers and jaguars, or both lemurs and sloths, as long as it doesn't contain cheetahs or camels, or other non-rainforest animals.  You might want to be more picky with older students and specify the geographical location of your dramatic jungle.

A Tree in Levels
I invented this lesson on the spur of the moment once when another lesson ran short and I had extra time.  I have since refined it and it works well.  It is designed to teach or review the four levels of the rainforest, and which animals live in which levels.

Preparation

This part is not really necessary, but it makes the lesson nicer and more formal.  Using masking tape (or chalk, if your floor will bear it), draw a large outline of a rainforest tree on the floor.  It should take up as much space as you have.  Be sure it has a clearly defined shape, with roots, a trunk, and a canopy shape.  Also be sure there is at least a little floor space "above" it.  If you want to, you can make lines that divide it into Forest Floor, Understory, Canopy and Emergent Layer, but I usually leave that for the children.

Discussion

Take as much or as little time as necessary for this.  Discuss the four main levels of the rainforest--Floor, Understory, Canopy, and Emergent Layer.  Discuss some of the animals that live in each level.

Game

One at a time, children get up and announce the animal they have chosen to be.  Then, moving like that animal, they go and stand/sit/slither in the appropriate part of the tree diagram.  (If there is no diagram, simply establish where the bottom is and use your imagination.)  Give them help as necessary to choose the right level.

Variations

With older students, you can make the game more challenging in a couple of ways: Back to top of lesson.

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Be the Rainforest
This lesson is a slight revision of one I learned from the folks I work with at Night Flight at the Philadelphia Zoo.  It needs a biggish group (more than 8 or ten) to work really well, and actually  works best if there are some adults in the group.  (I did it on Parents' Day this year, with great success.)

Discussion

Making the Rainforest
And. . .Action!
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Rainforest Variations on Other Lessons
Several of the other lessons on this site can be adapted for a rainforest unit.  Below are some suggestions on how to adapt some of them, with direct links to the lesson plans mentioned.  These adaptations are mostly pretty obvious, but I think they provide some insight into the way you can tailor your curriculum to support other curricular subjects without compromising the dramatic education you are providing.

The Lion King's Court

With or without the story that goes with it, this activity about a king choosing appropriate animal courtiers--who must know enough about themselves to make a good case for their inclusion--will clearly work for other animals than those on the African Savanna.  Instead of a lion, I make the King a jaguar.  (Actually, although the lion is traditionally "King of the Jungle," or "King of the Forest," the lion is a plains animal.)  His courtiers could be a bear, a monkey, and an eagle (for example).  I usually keep the camel in--some rainforests do abut deserts, after all. READ THE LESSON.

No, You Can't Take Me!

You can use this game as a way to teach the importance of various rainforest species.  (Works better with upper elementary of older.)  Instead of objects in a room, students become plants or animals in the rainforest.  (With advanced students, you could break the class into groups and have each be in a different part of the world, or one group could be a tropical and one a temperate rainforest, but just having the whole class be a generic "rainforest" works fine.)  When the teacher comes to shoot, trap, or cut down each student, they explain why the world would be a lesser place without them.  READ THE LESSON.

Around the World in Thirty Minutes

Instead of conducting a tour of the whole world, conduct a tour of the world's rainforests.  To make the project more challenging for older students, you could assign each student or group a particular rainforest, which they would have to research.  READ THE LESSON.

A Tree Grows

Instead of an apple tree, you could do this narrative pantomime about a rainforest tree, and talk about all of the animals who make their home in, on or under the tree, and how they help the tree to grow and in turn receive food and shelter from it..  READ THE LESSON.

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