Andy Hirt and Julia Foran, SK110
What makes tropical rainforests so special and unique? Is it the diversity of life? The intense vegetation? Or is it the complicated interdependence of the creatures who live there?
Over the past two months, our students in SK 110 have been exploring and researching various characteristics of rainforests throughout the world. We have read, watched, and studied their intricate and delicate existence and have begun to discuss how rainforests are the “lungs of the world." Through our investigations and discussions, we have also developed authentic gratitude for these unique biomes and discovered ways to practice tikkun olam (repairing the world).
In keeping with all of our investigations, we first asked our students to ponder what most intrigued them about this marvelous but essential biome. After examining a variety of printed materials and books, students used colored paper, scissors, and glue to create collages that illustrated their “wonders”. After reading numerous non-fiction texts and participating in some interactive discussions and activities, our class began to recognize the defining characteristics, locations, and inhabitants of these luxuriant forests. With this knowledge in hand, our inquiries focused on in-depth research into some of the birds that inhabit the tops of the tallest trees (otherwise known as the Emergent Layer) in the Central and South American rainforests. Our students were mesmerized by the majesty of harpy eagles, the remarkably engineered beaks of the toucan, and the unique nesting habits of the cock-of-the-rock. Working in small groups, our class wrote answers to big questions related to these avian creatures, drew sketches and detailed drawings to refine their "scientific eyes", used their artistic skills to create nuanced paper collages, and finally assembled all of these materials into poster board presentations that were then recorded and shared with classmates and families. During the remaining few weeks of our rainforest explorations, we will focus on native people and the differences in the ways in which they pursue their daily existence, as well as spend considerable time looking at current conservation efforts and what else can be done to preserve these vital regions.