How to Teach Rainforest Layers to Kids

Written by andrea helaine
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How to Teach Rainforest Layers to Kids
Learning about plant life can help students understand rainforest layers. (Rainforest Leaf image by PigBrothersInc from

Rainforests are one of the oldest ecosystems on Earth, and receive a high amount of rainfall each year, averaging about 50 to 260 inches annually. The rainforest's climate is hot and humid, with temperatures ranging from 20 degrees C to 33.9 degrees Celsius. The rainforest consists of four layers: the emergent layer, canopy layer, understory layer and the forest floor. Teaching should incorporate different learning methods to facilitate student learning about rainforest layers.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Photos of the rainforest, including images of animals and plants
  • Movie on the rainforest
  • Broccoli, cauliflower and celery
  • Dead leaves
  • Green paint and paintbrushes

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  1. 1

    Discuss the layers of the rainforest with the students. The emergent layer of the rainforest is about 200 feet above the forest floor and occurs when the tallest trees emerge at the top of the tree line. The canopy layer is the layer just beneath the emergent layer; it forms a roof over the bottom two layers. The trees in the canopy layer have oval leaves that come to a point. The understory layer has little sunshine and plants grow large leaves in order to reach the light. The forest floor layer remains dark and no plants grow in the area, causing rapid decay of plant material.

  2. 2

    Show students a video of the rainforest, such as a movie on plant growth, flowers in the rainforest or animals of the rainforest.

  3. 3

    Show the students pictures of each layer as you introduce them and present examples of plants and animals that live at each of the layers of the rainforest. Put the pictures aside.

  4. 4

    Break the class into small groups or pairs. Give each group or pair the names of the layers, as well as photos of the different animals and plants. Have the students match the photos with the layers they belong to.

  5. 5

    Give students a map of a rainforest and instruct them to divide the map into the four separate sections. Have the students label the layers and write a description of each of the layers beside it. As an alternative, students may create a model of the layers in the rainforest using items such as a cauliflower, broccoli, celery and dead leaves or green paint to depict each layer.

  6. 6

    Assign a presentation topic to the students and determine whether you want them to work in groups, pairs or independently. Have students present on a topic such as animals in the rainforest, rainforest preservation, facts about the rainforest or another topic of their choice.

  7. 7

    Give students a creative-writing assignment on the rainforest. Students should pretend that they are in the rainforest and embarking on a journey and write a letter to a family or friend, describing what they see and what it is like in the rainforest.

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