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 Integrated Unit: A Tropical Rainforest

Updated November 17, 2005

Two third grade classes are building clay birds from their integrated study of the rainforest  during their art classes.


Academic classroom integration example: The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry


   The third grade children read The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry and were asked to pay attention to the many animals that relied on the Kapok Tree for their needs. After reading the story a discussion group was held asking the children a variety of questions such as:

   How important was the Kapok Tree to the animals on the different levels of the rain forest?

   How did the animals feel when they saw humans come to chop down their tree?

   Can you state examples in our world where our ecosystem is in danger? (eg: air pollution, littering, ground pollution etc.)

    In a "Community" ecosystem such as the rainforest, all living things are dependent on one another, somewhat like our classroom community, where we ALL work together towards a common goal.

   The children then created and assembled their own  cut paper classroom Kapok Tree, (EMERGENTS: Giant trees that are much higher than the average canopy height.) placing each of their constructed cut paper animals in the proper layer.


  • EMERGENT LAYER: This is the top layer of the rain forest. The tall trees break out above the canopy layer to the sunlight. Many of the birds live in this area. The birds eat fruit and fly in the open areas of the emergent layer. They look for nesting places and are away from most predators.
  • CANOPY: The canopy is full of life, which includes insects, birds, reptiles, mammals and more. It is the upper parts of the tree and it receives far more sunlight than the lower layers. There are many plants that grow in this layer. Their roots don't reach the ground, and because of this, they are called air plants. They receive moisture from the humid conditions that exists there.
  • UNDERSTORY: A dark cool environment under the leaves but over the ground. Many animals like frogs, apes ,bats owls, and more live in this area. Some of the animals are nocturnal. There are anteaters and leafcutter ants. Many animals move from the understory to the canopy and back.
  • FOREST FLOOR: Abundant with animal life especially insects and mammals. The largest animals in the rainforest live there.


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