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The Rainforest -- a fascinating topic of study
The tropical rainforest is a fascinating topic for a homeschool unit study! Just the botany and zoology alone could take weeks to cover. There are also the history of the rainforest, the indigenous peoples of the rainforest, and the economy of the rainforest.
You can cater this topic to your youngest of students by focusing on the fascinating creatures such as toucans and leopards or raise the challenge by requiring older students to explore the political issues surrounding the use and misuse of this global treasure.
Your options are almost as endless as the variety of life in the rainforest itself. This lens (or webpage) is designed to point you in the direction of some great online resources and living books that will enhance your homeschool unit study of the rainforest. If you like to make lapbooks, you will be delighted to find free printable templates for rainforest related minibooks. Each photo of a homemade minibook is a link to a template I designed. Get your pith helmet and let's explore the rainforest!
Bromeliads grow in the rainforest.
Plants of the Rainforest
Plant life in the rainforest is known for its gigantic proportions and amazing characteristics. Epiphytes are plants that grow high up on branches and trunks of trees where they can get sunlight through the dense canopy. They absorb nourishment and water from the humid air all around them. Mosses, lichens, ferns, orchids, and bromeliads are all types of epiphytes.
The leaves of bromeliads, a type of epiphyte,are arranged in such a way as to hold water in the center. Inside this water, entire miniature ecosystems can thrive -- tadpoles, insects, and frogs. For a fact sheet about bromeliads, click here.
If you'd like a free template for making a bromeliad minibook of your own, click on the picture of it below. You will access a PDF for a unique minibook I designed that opens on both the right and the left. For the same file in A4 size click here.
Make your own three dimensional bromeliad make your out of paper. Directions are here. The printable template even includes a frog to live inside the flower!
Another fascinating plant of the rainforest is the Amazon Giant Water Lily -- a plant large enough to support 300 pounds of weight! Learn more about this fascinating plant and make your own interactive minibook with pink and white swing-out flowers by clicking on the image. For the same file in A4 size click here.
The kapok tree grows in the rainforest.
The giant kapok tree is another monster of the rainforest. Most rainforest plants and trees have very shallow roots. To anchor them more firmly in the ground, many rainforest trees have buttress roots around the bottom of the trunk for support. The native peoples of the rainforest pound on the roots of the kapok tree as if they were playing a drum. The loud booming noices are a way to communicate through the dense jungle.
For a fact sheet about the kapok tree click here.
Click the picture to the left to access a PDF template for making that minibook. Four inside flaps hold these vocabulary words -- canopy, buttress roots, lianas (vines), and epiphytes. For the same file in A4 size, click here.
The Great Kapok Tree is a beautiful picture book, appropriate to introduce your children to the wonders of the rainforest. It is about much more than this fabulous tree, though. The ladies at Homeschool Share have designed a free
Literature Based Unit Study for this book. You will find many printables and lapbooking templates there!
Rainforest Lapbook Pictures
It can really help to inspire you when you see someone else's finished work. Look at these rainforest lapbooks for ideas.
- 4Real Forums
In this forum discussion, one mom posted pics of her child's beautiful rainforest lapbook. The cover is a brilliant idea! Check it out!
- Rainforest Lapbook on Flickr
These are images from my daughter's rainforest lapbook.
- Rainforest Mural
Technically, this article is not about a lapbook, but it does share a beautifully detailed mural of the tropical rainforest.
Giant Science Resource Book - Evan Moor Reproducible Books
This book has a section on habitats, and rainforest gets four pages. You probably wouldn't buy this book just to study the rainforest. But it's a great investment for elementary science reproducibles. I own this book and have turned to it time and time again, not only for our rainforest study but also for many other science topics.
Read a full review at The Heart of the Matter.
If you prefer an instant download, this book is also available at CurrClick in eBook format.
All About the Rain Forest - Evan Moor Reproducible Books
This thematic unit targets a fourth grade student. If you prefer an instant download, this book is also available at CurrClick in eBook format.
Theme Pockets - June - Evan Moor Reproducible Books
This reproducible book features the Amazon Rainforest with these activities: rainforest layers puzzle, blue morpho butterfly model, draw a jaguar, rainforest animals fact cards, and make a kapok pod. (Two other topics covered are Artists and Farmers Feed Us.)
If you prefer an instant download, this book is also available at CurrClick in eBook format.
The Best Rainforest Resources Online
- Rainforest Alliance
The Rainforest Alliance's Learning Site offers an abundance of printable PDF and online resources arranged by grade level -- from K to 8. Species profiles, coloring pages, slideshows, e-books, lesson plans, and more. This is truly a fabulous resource
- The Living Rainforest
This site offers some printable worksheets and teaching ideas. The volume and quality is nowhere near that of the Rainforest Alliance, but you may still find some gems here. We used the Amazing Adaptations and the Background Worksheets in our own uni
Tarsiers live in rainforests of the Philippines.
What is your favorite part of a rainforest study?
Rainforest Resources - printables, lesson plans, and more
- Ed Helper's Rainforest Coloring Book
A PDF with large coloring book images of several rainforest animals -- aye aye, morpho butterflies, leaf cutter ants, macaws, frogs, slots, toucans, tigers, and more.
- Homeschool Share Rainforest Theme
I've linked to some of Homeschool Share's resources elsewhere on this page, but the site is worthy of a few links! This page has all of their rainforest related materials all on one page. Convenient!
- ABC Teach Rainforest Theme
A long list of average quality resources -- crossword puzzles, coloring sheets, etc.
- Birds of the Rainforest Coloring Pages
Thirteen beautiful black and white drawings done by a professional artist.
- Rainforest Diorama
The American Museum of Natural History has created these free printables for making your own shoebox diorama of the rainforest ecosystem. Another simpler design featuring the layers of the canopy can be found at Storm the Castle.
- RETAIL -- Rainforest Habitats Lapbook from In the Hands of a Child
This lapbook kit is sold at CurrClick as an ebook download.
- Moody Gardens Educator Guides
Scroll to the very bottom of the page for the Tropical Rainforest Curriculum PDF.
Rainforest Resources Online
Click on the leopard picture to go to Chunky Monkey's rainforest friends. You'll find stories set in the rainforest and directions for how to draw several rainforest animals.
For general sites which you can explore alongside your children, visit
I love DK books as unit study spines because they give a broad overview in such a visual format.
For a truly complete unit study, you will want to include many disciplines. Art is an easy one to incorporate into your rainforest explorations because Henri Rousseau painted a whole series of fanciful Jungle images.
Study these paintings with your children. Compare what you see with what you know is true about actual rainforests. Then let your children make their own Rousseau style jungle paintings. Use the online game below, or make your own with crayons or paints. Be sure to include it in your rainforest lapbook somewhere.
- Jungle Interactive
An interactive design activity for kids. Create your own rainforest artwork similar to Rousseau's. Then print it out for your lapbook.
Watch Rousseau's Paintings
This four minute video is just paintings with music accompaniment. The selection includes the jungle art as well as his other subjects.
Jan Brett wrote a book about the rainforest -- The Umbrella. Amazingly, she has posted on the Internet, a multitude of free resources to go along with that book (or with any study of the rainforest). First are beautiful black and white line drawings of rainforest foilage and animals for making your own mural! Any of these could be reduced in size to make a collage or a minibook. And in this fun video, you can watch Jan Brett not only talk about her idea for this book but also draw a toucan!
And Homeschool Share has a unit study with lesson plans to accompany this living book.
Animals of Rainforest
No study of the rainforest would be complete without a look at the diverse wildlife found there. From tarsiers to orangutans, from toucans to piranhas... many of the animals of the rainforest are found nowhere else on earth.
Try coloring these Nine Most Endangered Rainforest Animal pages.
For some online fun, try Animals of a Tropical Rainforest (scroll down for the link). In this online game, you place the rainforest animals in their correct layers of the canopy. Then the image you create can be printed out!
For a template of a layered book about the big cats of the rainforest, click the image. For the same file in A4 size, click here. Three of the world's four largest big cats are found in the rainforests!
World's four largest cats:
Would you like to create a rainforest environment in your own home? Listen to these fun sound effect files!
See if you can identify the animals making these noises.
Leafcutter ants are called the first farmers! They use the leaves they carry back home to grow a fungus which they eat. Fascinating!
For directions and a printable template for making this leafcutter ant pocket and book, click the picture.For the same file in A4 size, click here.
Snakes of the Rainforest
Everything is huge in the rainforest -- snakes are no exception! Huge anacondas and tree climbing boas are intriguing animals to add to your rainforest study.
Click the picture for directions and a template for this circle book about snakes of the rainforest. For the same file in A4 size, click here.
The Manatee lives in the Amazon River. This endangered animal is so homely that it is actually cute!
For our mini-book about the manatee we used the following resources:
Save the Manatee website has sound recordings, video clips, photographs, and printable PDFs.
From the Rainforest Alliance
This resource was not available when we made our manatee minibook, but Homeschool share has an entire manatee lapbook!
Rainforest Hands-on Learning
Kids love getting messy and learning through doing!
Begin your crafts with this free online project. The American Museum of Natural History has some printable diorama templates for three habitats.
Do an experiment with a bromeliad -- a pineapple!
Kid's Craft Weekly has a jungle theme issue with an assortment of crafts made from normal household items. (I love this craft newsletter! Search their archives for more topics.)
Then add even more hands-on activities to your unit study with the ideas in these books!
What a delicious aspect to incorporate into your rainforest unit study! This is sure to motivate your children!
Chocolate comes from the cocoa beans which grow on the cocoa tree, a native plant of the rainforest.
Investigate these links for teaching resources about chocolate:
For your mini-book, make a candy wrapper book using these fun sites:
images of scanned candy wrappers (Or just eat your own candy bars and use the real thing!)
or use these chocolate kiss shape book templates
Then add in some other facts such as Cocoa Tree.org's printables about chocolate -- a nice map of growing regions of the cocoa tree, a chocolate timeline (5 centuries of cocoa), and other resources.
For more ideas for chocolate related mini-books for a rainforest lapbook, see these bloggers who made chocolate lapbooks:
This book chronicles the history of chocolate and the modern production of a favorite treat.