Exploring Environments


Four or five 40-minute sessions spread out over two or three weeks. This activity can be repeated each season for comparative studies.


  • Data for weather conditions in our area (can be obtained from Newark airport's weather station)
  • rain gauge
  • thermometers
  • newspaper
  • world map
  • atlases
  • copycat page from Ranger Rick's Rain Forests: Tropical Treasures
  • journal
  • string
  • ruler


  • Describe characteristics of a tropical rain forest.
  • Compare and contrast conditions in temperate forests with conditions in tropical rain forests.


  • Students will think and list some of the different kinds of forests that grow around the world.
  • Teams will share lists and create team list.
  • Class share/discussion. Discuss some ways the forests are different. record responses on chalkboard or chart paper.
  • Student teams will generate a list of questions they have about the plants and animals that live in or around their neighborhood. (This can be a nearby wooded area, an area on school grounds, or weeds sprouting up between cracks in the sidewalk.)
  • Teams will evaluate list and narrow down to four or five questions they can answer through observations.
  • Class sharing and discussion of questions. Students should come to consensus as a class on four or five questions that every team will try to answer. Each team may also have individual questions they want to explore.
  • Provide each team with a thermometer, plastic baggie, string, ruler, etc.
  • Take students outside. As a class set up a rain gauge for the students to monitor each day. Each team will select a different site to explore, answer questions, and record observations. (Repeat this investigation several times over two or three weeks.)
  • As a class, also monitor and record the times for sunrise and sunset over the study period.
  • After data has been collected for a number of days, teams will share results with the class. record on sheet of easel paper. Student teams will calculate rainfall and temperature averages.
  • Share data obtained from weather station on monthly temperature and rainfall averages. Teams will graph the monthly average of each.
  • Class discussion - generate a list of general characteristics for forests in our area.
  • Student team will use the information gathered from the Rainforest Connection and research materials to compare/contrast the characteristics of our area to thecharacteristics of Panama's forests. Guided questions may include:
    • How do the average temperatures compare?
    • Compare the rainfall at different times of the year.
    • How are the lengths of days different?
    • What are some differences and similarities between the plants in the two areas?
    • Teams will create a brief presentation to share with the class, comparing and contrasting the characteristics of each area (chart, Venn Diagram, etc.).
  • Class sharing of presentations.
  • Class discussion of the process: How did this investigation help you learn about tropical forests?
    Were there any surprises as a result of this investigation?

NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards: Science 5.2, 5.6, 5.7, 5.12; Language Arts 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4.