We know that young children learn best by making connections, so when I was teaching a unit I tried to find ways to tie the new learning to things we had already studied. It was easy to tie a unit about rainforests to our study of the earth, and ways to save the earth. When I was teaching this unit I would often use the terms jungle and rainforest interchangeably, but I learned that the main difference is the amount of light that reaches the ground through the trees. Jungles usually have lots of vegetation and growth on the ground, rainforests are so dense that little light gets through and the ground is pretty bare. When people talk about the negative impact of losing rainforests, they really do mean rainforests, not jungles. I did talk with my children about the differences, but I decided to use both terms because so many great children’s books talk about the jungle, and the word jungle is just fun!
We made a book loosely based on the pattern in I Went Walking.
There was one page in the book for each of the 4 layers of the rainforest – I began at the bottom: the forest floor, the understory, the canopy and the emergent layer.
We made the back of the book from a piece of tagboard that was 18 x 6 inches long. The pages were 12 x 6 inches and stapled onto the left side of the tagboard. Then the children cut out large leaves and glued them onto the top of the tagboard, along with the title of the book.
You could easily change this to “I walked in the rainforest”
I created a newer version of this book with an anteater instead of an elephant – which would be truer to a rainforest instead of a jungle.
Sometimes we used oatmeal for scales on the snake – other times we glued on sequins.
I found a song that really taught the children about the different layers of the forest. We sang it to the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It.
I found a poster of the rainforest that was easy to cut into 4 pieces to show the different levels. As we learned this song I put each piece of the poster onto the magnet board. After the children became familiar with the song we started using our bodies as the trees. When we sang about the forest floor we touched the floor – or our toes. For the understory we touched our legs. We made an umbrella by overlapping our forearms for the canopy and we reached up high with extended fingers for the emergent layer.
Here is a copy of the song you can print.
As a culmination to this unit I told the children we were going to go on a picture taking safari to the jungle. But first we had to get ready.
We made safari hats and cameras.
I had a book about the jungle that had zebra stripes for the page inside the cover. I xeroxed that and cut it into strips for the hat bands. (I think it was Rumble in the Jungle, but I’m not sure.)
Each child also decorated a brown paper lunch bag with vines and jungle animal pictures. I put a snack inside – usually animal crackers and a juice box. They would have to hunt for their snack on the safari.
Most years I created the safari on the Kindergarten playground, but sometimes we had to move it inside because of weather. I couldn’t really make the layers of the forest going up – so I made the layers in different sections of the playground – or the Media Center – or whatever space I had to use! I brought in artificial flowers and puppets, and jungle-y fabric. I made signs to label the different layers. Then I had to have a safari guide. The children went on the safari in small groups – so I usually didn’t feel like I could leave the rest of the classroom with an aide or parent, so I “trained” them to be the guide.
The safari guide would shake a maraca to get the children’s attention and make an announcement that a safari was about to depart. Then she would call a group of children (I divided them up beforehand) and they would put on their cameras and hats, and pretend to use bug spray. Then they would go out on their safari (it was always out of the classroom and out of sight from our room). At each layer of the rainforest they would stop and chant
There’s a rumble in the jungle
There’s a whisper in the trees
The animals are waking up
And rustling the leaves
Then they would sing the verse of our song that talked about that layer of the rainforest. They would pretend to take pictures of the animals, and kept looking for their safari snacks – which I always put in the emergent layer at the end.
Here are directions I printed out for them:
This copy of the song left out the verse about the layers in the forest because they didn’t sing that on the safari.
All the pictures that I could find were of times we did our safari indoors.
When the safari group came back into the classroom they ate their safari snack – then “printed” their photographs by drawing them in a Safari Scrapbook. Here is the cover I used to make the 1/4 page sized scrapbooks.
I didn’t save the masters for the hats and cameras when I retired, but I did a search for camera clipart and here are a couple that might work:
The children loved learning about the jungle/rainforest, and they remembered so many facts about the different layers because of the song. The safari was always a big hit, and created lots of great kindergarten memories.