The educational and earth-friendly book, This Planet is Mine, was written by two teachers. Their intent was to explore the wonders of the planet through various environmentally–focused and literature-based curriculum activities. This book is a compilation of their classroom experiences. The following sample activities taken from This Planet is Mine may inspire you to take your own students on a journey. The following suggestions can be used in collaboration with the book, Life in the Rainforests by Lucy Baker.
Integrating the Idea:
Language Arts: Reports on Animals from A–Z!
We divided into partners to work on rainforest animal reports. As we researched we made web charts of the attributes of our animals. We watched Part 1 of You Can't Grow Home Again, a fantastic video about life in the rainforest.
Science/Math: Layers of Life
We had learned there were four major layers of life in the rainforest: emergents, the canopy, the understory, and the forest floor. Different life exists in all these layers. We created a small rainforest bulletin board. (One centimeter equaled two feet.) We made tiny animals and tried to place them in the proper level of our miniature rainforest. We knew our emergent trees (the few that break out and grow above the canopy) can grow to 300 feet tall, which is as long as a football field. However, most grow to be about 150 feet, which is incredible! We illustrated what we had learned about levels and wrote rainforest “facts” we were accumulating. We had a “What I Know About the Ralnforest” journal where we could place our information.
What I know about the rainforest:
Science/Math: Measuring a Miracle
We took an adding machine tape and marked off 150 feet, one foot at a time. We taped this to the wall in the hallway. It kept going and going! Most trees in the rainforest are eighty to 150 feet tall. We found out that our school was only twenty-five feet tall.
Science/Math: Terrariurn Treasures
We were learning that many of our common houseplants originally came from the plants in the rainforests. In fact, two-thirds of the flowering plants in the world came from there. We recycled some two-liter pop bottles. We cut off the top part with the spout on it and pulled off the bottom reinforcer. We put dirt in this section and placed a small species of plant in it that would have originally come from the rainforest. We then turned the rounded bottom part upside down over the plant to create a terrarium. We could watch the transpiration of the moisture in the air and imagined how much water the huge trees of the Amazon could cycle. We also had a big earth terrarium in the class and could really see moisture form!
Science/Math: Money Matters
We had been learning from our reading, guest experts, and research about the problems facing the rainforest today. We wanted to help, so we started to plan a bakesale to be held at school. Each item would cost one quarter. We practiced ways to make change from a dollar so when the sale days came, we would be able to serve our customers well.
Social Studies: Rainforests Have People
- A book about a child of the Amazon. We read Amazon Boy by Ted Lewin (Macmillan, 1993). The boy in the story lives in the Amazon rainforest and realizes how special his home is when he visits the city downstream. At the end of the story he makes an important choice! It seems that there are Earthkeepers all over the planet making choices.
- Reading a folktale. We read a folktale the Amazon boy might have liked, Papagayo: The Mischief Maker by Gerald McDermott. In this vibrantly illustrated story we met Papagayo, a parrot, who reminded us of the “trickster” characters in our Native American unit. Then we realized that the natives of the rainforest were also Native Americans. They had lived in the rainforests of South America for thousands of years! We loved this tale of a moon-dog who is eating the moon a little bit more every night. Our teacher told us there were many legends about the moon in South American rainforest stories. It was sort of magic!
- A tale of rubber tappers. A guest had visited the rainforest and brought back many wonderful items. She showed us animals made from natural rubber. Rubber is made from the liquid latex of rubber trees. Rubber can now be made in other ways but the rubber trees in the rainforest are still very important to protect and use wisely, she said. She showed us a book, Antonio's Rain Forest by Anna Lewington. It tells of the life of a boy, Antonio JosÃ©. His father is a rubber tapper. It explains the history of rubber and the problems rubber tappers face today. It was interesting hearing about real people of the forest!
- Rainforest schools. I had visited schools in the Amazon rainforest of Peru and showed pictures of the children. I explained how we could help support a school in the rainforest and write to the children, but we would have the help of someone who speaks Spanish, as that is the language studied in their schools. I told how children there love to play soccer although they only had one ball for the whole school, which was a one-room building with very few supplies. Pencils, paper, and books were treasures to these students. They were very beautiful people. I wished we could all meet them someday! We looked at our map again to find Peru and the South American rainforest near the equator.
- Rainforest information center. We had a center with artifacts from indigenous peoples of the rainforest. We loved the reed flute. Indians respected the forest and knew many of its secrets for their own survival and enjoyment! We watched more of the video You Can't Grow Home Again and we didn't like what was happening to the rainforest we were beginning to care so much about! It was being burned and cut down and not carefully respected! We began to think and-write about this. We wanted to help this 7% of the planet!