Home School Goes to the Rainforest

The rainforest was the destination of choice for week 2 of Lockdown Home School. Our planned Grand Adventure was due to take in a trip to the Amazon at the specific request of the 9yo. We were aiming to be there for his 10th birthday. With no Big Trip to plan for at the moment I’m redirecting my research skills into finding materials and resources to help the kids delve into the rainforest, learning about wildlife and the pressures faced by rainforests across the world.

Rainforest Lesson Plan

Here is a brief overview of what we learned about the rainforest in one week of home school. I’m including links to online resources as well as books that we used to research.

Our bookshelves are overflowing with children’s non-fiction books (only partly connected to my some-time job as a childrens non-fiction author), and as the boys are obsessed with wildlife, many of our books focus on animals and habitats. For this topic luckily we’d also picked up a couple of rainforest books at the library only a week or so before going into lockdown.

A selection of books that we had at home which helped home school go to the rainforest

As well as general Google searches, I also used Twinkl (an education resource for teachers), the fantastic BBC Bitesize website and the Royal Geographical Society’s teaching resources.

The Amazon

When our Grand Adventure takes place we are still hoping that we’ll be able to visit the Amazon. We started our home school rainforest topic by taking a look at how much land the Amazon covers, and which countries it touches. This led onto looking at some of the really big numbers associated with the Amazon – how big, how many species etc. Luckily The Week: Science and Nature were holding a live Q&A on their facebook page and were able to answer one of our questions!

The layers of the rainforest

The 7yo was learning about the rainforest at school before it shutdown due to coronavirus. His class learnt a song about the rainforest layers which they performed to parents and guardians on a school visit day. We decided to do a little bit of revision and looked at the different layers of the rainforest. I let the 7yo lead part of the lesson and he explained the different attributes animals living in different layers might have.

The Amazon under threat

It’s no surprise to any of us to learn that the Amazon rainforest is under threat from loggers and cattle farmers, and which not only poses a threat to our planet’s health, but also to the wildlife that calls the Amazon home. Clicking through the RGS website as I was searching for useful material led me to a lesson plan about the Awa tribe who live within the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. The plan helped us learn about the indigenous tribes of the Amazon and how their way of life is also under threat.

Borneo’s Palm Oil Problem

An episode of the recent series of Steve Backshall’s Deadly 60 (currently available on BBC iPlayer) travelled to Borneo where Steve revealed the extent of Borneo’s rainforest that has been cut down to make way for palm oil plantations. These plantations are threatening the survival of Borneo’s star inhabitant, the orangutan. Sun bears are also under threat as are myriads of insects and invertebrates. The programme showed us how palm oil plantations are important for the economy of the region, and how they can be managed in way that is wildlife-friendly.

Big Book of Bugs

Whether you’re a fan of creepy-crawlies or not, there’s no denying the rainforest is full of them! I noticed that Yuval Zommer, author and illustrator of The Big Book of Bugs, had created a ‘how to draw’ pdf and was sharing it on social media. We spent a happy hour or so creating lots of different bugs of all shapes and sizes. The boys then used their bugs to decorate their Save the Rainforest posters which summed up much of their learning from the week.

A Rainforest Adventure

The 9yo’s school class had a story-writing challenge to complete by the end of the Easter holidays. His story, A Grand Adventure, was set in a Mexican jungle (Mexico was the topic for our first week of home school). His characters, who carried ‘camping gear, a map of the jungle, a compass, ropes and machetes’ had to make their way to Diamond Canyon. ‘The path was muddy and the trees were slippery…It was hard work but they got to the canyon’ where they befriended a crocodile called Snap. I hadn’t specifically planned their English lessons to be linked to their topics, but I’m not surprised that the jungle inspired his story.

Summary

The rainforest was one of the key topics requested by the kids for home school, with a specific focus on the Amazon. In a week we were only able to scratch the surface. We didn’t look too closely at the different wildlife found in these amazing habitats. My boys spend much of their lives reading their wildlife non-fiction books so I chose to focus on how humans live in and impact the rainforest instead. We really enjoyed learning about different aspects of the rainforest and can’t wait to have our own experience in the Amazon one day soon.

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