The Great Kapok Tree

Rain Forest/​Your Forest
A Comparative Curricula by Lynne Cherry,
For use with The Great Kapok Tree, The Shaman’s Apprentice and Flute’s Journey

Introduction: I wrote The Great Kapok Tree so that children would know about the threat to the world’s rain forests and, hopefully, try to save them.

Children have raised thousands of dollars to protect rain forest, especially the Monteverde rain forest in Costa Rica. But what I have found, in traveling around the country and speaking at schools and conferences, is that often teaching about the rain forest precludes hands-on teaching about living breathing ecosystems with actual forays out into the real world of nature. I am writing this curriculum to try to remedy this.

The forests and natural areas in our own back yards are in need of saving, too.They, too, are habitat for many living things. Children need open space to spend unstructured time in, to explore and to connect with the natural world.

Children can help save land in their own communities.. The most important thing teachers can do is to bring children outside, introduce them to the wonders of nature and help to connect them to the natural world.

Go outside. If there is even one tree, one blade of grass or one weed poking up through a crack in the playground, you can use it for these lessons.

I. How Are the Tropical and Temperate Forests Similar and Different?
1.How is a rain forest similar to the forest near your schoolyard?
Both are green.
Both need sunlight to survive.
Both use photosynthesis to turn sunlight into energy.
Both get nutrition from the earth.
Both need air, water and earth in order to live.
Both have trees.
Both have different species of trees.
Both have leaves.
Leaves in both forests are eaten by a variety of insects and have mechanisms to protect themselves from herbivorie.
Both are home to many species of animals.

2. How is a rain forest different from woodlot in your schoolyard?
Rain forest plants are green and growing year-round. Deciduous forests are dormant in the winter except for evergreens.
The understory of the rain forest needs much less sunlight than northern forests.
Rainforest are are acclimated to hotter temperatures.
Because rain forests grow at a faster rate and all year round, they produce more oxygen than northern forests.
The earth in rain forests is much more shallow and less nutritious than that in temperate forests.
Trees in the rain forest grow much taller on average than the trees in the temperate forest (however the oldest, largest and tallest trees in the world are temperate forest trees such as redwoods and sequoias.)
Whereas a northern forest has an average of 25 species of trees/​acre, the rain forest has hundreds of species of trees/​acre.
Rain forest plants keep their leaves all year long but only some plants in the deciduous forest do.
Rain forest leaves have many more kinds of toxic substances to keep from being eaten by insects.
Northern forests are home to about –-species of animal/​acre whereas rainforests have about –species/​acre..

Can your students think of more examples of how rain forests are similar and different from each other?


Put on your own class or group play! Download here:

The Great Kapok Tree
Text and narration for the play.
Great KapokTree Play.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 19.4 KB