This summer we’re diving into the Ancient Maya and the rain forest biome. We have two friends along for the ride, the same ages as my kids (7 and 10), so it will be fun to have some extra energy around! See also our Ancient Maya Unit Plan, our Ancient Maya Book/Video List, and our Rain Forest Book List.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.
I know all four kids have had experience learning about biomes. It’s been over a year for my kids though, and I’m not sure how long for the other two. For this reason, we spent our first week discussing the definition of a biome, and biomes in general.
First, we used Waseca‘s Biome 3-part cards to review the different biomes of the world. Following the Introduction to the Biomes – Elementary lesson, we reviewed the characteristics of each biome and brainstormed plants and animals that may live there.
In the same lesson, I introduced the Biomes of the World Mat. (Thank you to my homeschool buddy for letting me borrow the mat for the summer!) We placed labels for the equator, the tropics lines, the continents and the cardinal directions, and also found the Yucatan Peninsula since we were going to talk about it the rest of the summer.
The materials were available to the children to explore for the rest of the week.
For follow up work, they were asked to choose any biome (except the rain forest), and complete a quick research sheet from Modern Montessori Guide. I gave this lesson on Monday, on Friday the two littles read out their research, while the two bigs had created posters to display. A great quick biome review.
The world materials were put away over the weekend. I pulled out my friend’s Waseca North America Mat. We discussed where we live, the other continents greyed out on the mat, the location of the Yucatan Peninsula, and the locations of the different biomes. I then asked the kids to do a 10-minute quickwrite, describing the uniqueness of the biome they chose last week.
This week, the kids had one required and three optional tasks to choose from. First, they were required to trace and either paint or color a map of the North America biomes. Optionally, they could work with the Waseca North America research cards, the Waseca North America geographical feature cards, or the Waseca North America Rainforest Animal 3-part cards. As it happened, the Rainforest Animal 3-part cards seemed to be the big winner of the week!
I thought the painted maps were beautiful! They loved the tracing work, and having painting as an option during read alouds really helped to keep the wriggles at in a way that didn’t distract anyone else, let everyone look up at pictures and engage in discussions.
In week 3, I used part of Fishtank Learning’s 2nd Grade Exploring Habitats unit. Lesson 20 uses the first half of a non-fiction text, A Rainforest Habitat, to make the kids think about what makes the rainforest unique. After a discussion, the kids were asked to do a 10 minute quickwrite with the prompt, “The rainforest biome is unique because…”
Along with various rainforest books at the bottom of our bookshelf, I also set out some beautiful rainforest layer cards from @wildfeatheredu. The kids were asked to learn about the layers of the rainforest and create an informational sheet.
This week we continued with the next Fishtank lesson, Lesson 21. We finished reading A Rainforest Habitat. The second part of the book focused on animals and adaptations. After a discussion, I asked the kids to do a quick write brainstorming as many way animals had adapted to the rainforest as they could remember, or could think of themselves.
Also provided for follow up work this week was the Montessori animal story material (a set of cards with research prompts), an animal research graphic organizer, paper for animal research, animal cards from @wildfeatheredu, and of course, lots of library books. Tracing took a week off last week – no one really used the light table, but this week it was in high demand most days between rainforest animal and our Maya culture work! For the most part everyone was very gracious sharing their time and making sure their work was at a good stopping point when they went to have a snack so that someone else could take over the light table for a brief time. It was always made clear that the original user would get the light table back after snack!
Our fifth week focused on rainforest plants. I provided plant cards from @wildfeatheredu and a plant research guide. I also read aloud sections from the book “Plants and Plant Eaters,” and made the book available. We all struggled to find detailed information about the plants and eventually resorted to internet searches, where we still mostly only found information for gardeners.
I should also mention that by week 5, the kids were all in various stages of completion on all these work options. One child had everything completed by the end of the week. Another had her rainforest layers page, her animal page, and her plant page all in progress by the end of the week, but none were finished. The other two each had two pieces of work completed and one still in progress.
To finish our rainforest study, I introduced food webs in our last week. I started out by showing the kids the Montessori sun game. My sun game is a combination of free printables from Montessori Soul, paid printables from Montessori Inspired Co, and a sun I made with my Cricut. We read a fabulous book, A Rain Forest Food Chain by Rebecca Hogue Wojahn and Donald Wojahn. It’s a non-fiction choose-your-own-adventure type book with tons of great photos, LOTS of information about each plant of animal in the food web, and a great explanation of food webs too. So good! The kids read through the book independently, took notes on the food web they chose, and then drew it up somehow – their choice. We also visited our local science museum and got to visit their rainforest!
Their work all combined into a codex – we’re studying the Ancient Maya at the same time, who wrote down information in codices. You can see how all the work came together on the Ancient Maya Unit Plan page.