Sunday, October 9, 2011

Theme Unit - The Rain Forest and Jungle

Here's how it started:  "Mom, I want to learn about all animals", said Eli.  "Dude, you've got to narrow it down.  What kind of animals?", said mom.  "All animals", replied Eli.  Repeat what mom said again, then add in a few categories to choose from.  Rain forest/Jungle animals was not on the example list.  Then my first question was, "What is the difference between the Jungle and the Rain there a difference?"  Apparently, there is.  Taken from sites like, and, I was able to formulate a distinction.  Basically, a rain forest has taller trees and a thicker canopy (top of trees) with less growth in the understory (ground level).  The jungle can be independent of a rain forest, however it is also usually found surrounding a rain forest, as the trees thin out and more sunlight is let in.  The jungle has more growth in the understory.  Here is a list from differencebetween:


1.A rain forest has a very thick canopy of tall trees, making it very difficult for light to penetrate to the ground level which makes it difficult for plants to flourish. A jungle floor on the other hand will usually have a thick undergrowth of plants and vegetation.

2.If part of a rain forest is cleared, the remaining trees will let in more light towards the forest floor, thus encouraging growth of vegetation, and thereby making a jungle out of a former rain forest.

3.Forests in the Indian sub-continent have always been known as jungles, whereas the rain forests have really been identified with the Amazonian basin in Brazil.

4.Another difference lies in the importance of tropical rain forests to the ecological health of the earth, which is immense. In comparison, jungles have a relatively minor impact.

I was ready to move on. 
Eli wanted to make a mural.  I started printing out rain forest/jungle related activities off different sites.  We have a subscription to  They have worksheets and activities related to just about everything the typical school-aged child will want or need to know.  I found all sorts of things to print out.  I'm pretty sure I got overzealous and printed out way too many things.
We worked for 2 hours.  Eli colored in a lion and giraffe, created a pond, hippo and tiger.  We created a Morpho butterfly.  I found a map of Africa, enlarged it and printed it out.   We spent another 2 hours the next day.  Then he was done.  But I have worksheets and booklets to color and read and word searches!

We've since taken a break.  We visited the library yesterday and found a ton of books on the subject at hand.  However, we could only take out three on one subject.  I was told to put 7 books back.  Whoops. 

We own a copy of The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry.  I ordered A Guide for Using The Great Kapok Tree in the Classroom.  Okay, so we're not in a classroom, but it's still useful.  I was able to get the guide for $4.00 from Amazon.  It was a used, old library copy for a penny, but then they charge $3.99 for shipping.  Because I get Prime shipping and it was in the a.m. when I ordered it, I received it the next day. 
In a few weeks, we'll wrap up our rain forest/jungle exploration with a trip to Roger Williams Zoo in Rhode Island, where they have a Tropical America exhibit.  It'll be cold by then, so I'm not sure how much will actually be exhibited.  We'll also take some time out to visit the Butterfly Place again.  They have Blue Morpho butterflies, which can only be found naturally in the rain forests of South America. 
We watched Rio, which isn't educational at all, but does take place in the Brazilian Rain forest and is pretty funny.  We also watched Go Deigo Go! It's a Bug World.  My two-year-old picked it out at the library.  I've also found some rain forest movies on Netflix. 
What I've learned from this - Kids generally want some information and parents get more excited and expect lesson plan after lesson plan to get completed.  Some other homeschool mommas and I chatted regarding this topic...we were all overzealous and super excited there was a topic our child was interested in.  If our Kindergarten-aged children were actually in school, they would probably spend the same amount of time over a period of a month on one topic as we do in a few days.  I have to keep reminding myself of that.  And that when my kids' desire for a topic has been sated, to just stop, regardless of how excited I am.  Well, unless it's driving them to want more.   

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