10 Mar 2023
Learning to Save the Rainforest with KS1
Are you seeking an exciting and meaningful topic to teach your KS1 class? Learning about rainforests with year 1 or year 2 children offers so much scope for cross-curricular learning. There is a wealth of resources available to support this topic and children will simply love the curious creatures they’ll discover. Of course, important information about climate change and sustainability can also be presented through this topic to support your pupils in considering their roles as global citizens.
Why teach about rainforests in KS1?
Rainforests is an engaging, fun, colourful topic. The luscious, green leaves, the brightest of flowers, the rainbow-coloured parrots, the cute creatures and the dangerous wild beasts will inspire curiosity and wonder in all pupils.
Rainforests and deforestation are important topics relating to climate change and sustainable living. Most young children will know a little about recycling, but they can be taught about the 5 R’s (refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle) in more detail. Give them real-life examples such as taking a reusable bag with them when they go shopping, or reusing a shoebox as a container for storing pens or toys.
The rainforests topic allows teachers to meet many curriculum objectives in geography, science, citizenship and art. There is scope to weave a rainforest topic through dance, drama, music and class assemblies, too. And when it comes to reading and writing activities, there is no end to the possibilities.
How do you explain rainforests to young children?
As a basic description for younger children, a rainforest is a large area full of trees in certain places around the world. These forests are home to many animals as well as plants. We can teach children that these rainforests are also hugely important for humans as they clean the planet’s air. They are often called ‘the lungs of the planet’.
Visual and practical learning will help KS1 pupils engage with the topic of rainforests and learn why they are so important.
Use maps and globes for reference. Young children find it difficult to think of a world beyond their immediate first-hand experience so it helps them to see where they exist as part of a much greater picture.
Show children photos and illustrations of rainforests and the animals that live there. Compare and contrast rainforests with UK forests and even look at the similarities and differences between rainforests in different parts of the world.
Find appropriate videos to share with pupils that will help them gain more of an understanding of what rainforests are really like. You might also be able to find age-appropriate videos that explain why humankind is destroying the rainforests but be mindful of upsetting young children.
Bring learning to life through creative projects such as drama and artwork. The best learning takes place when it’s fun and interactive.
Stock up on wonderful reference and fiction books to fully engage young children with this topic. KS1 children will love going on a rainforest adventure with Finn and his dog, Skip, in the DK book Forest by Brendan Kearney. A beautifully illustrates Animal Atlas will also support children’s understanding of where different animals live around the world.
What are some rainforest activities to do with KS1?
Art – Famous artists such as John Dyer and Henri Rousseau created works of art depicting rainforest scenes. Children could compare the two artists’ work and take inspiration to create their own paintings or pastel artwork.
Senaka Senanayake’s paintings portray the beautiful flora and fauna of the rainforest and pupils may be surprised to learn that he became famous for his artwork while still a child. Children could create personal or group artwork inspired by his work, perhaps using collage techniques.
Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940, by Frida Kahlo, is another famous painting that could inspire children’s own works of art, in which they draw or paint themselves with a rainforest background and include one or two rainforest animals.
Drama – Children will love creating displays, props and masks then acting out skits or scenes as rainforest animals. They could also learn and perform some songs about rainforests.
Stories, poems and non-fiction – Fiction set in - and poems about - the rainforest can spark ideas for creative writing while building factual knowledge. Non-fiction texts interest many children and could be used to create fact sheets, information leaflets or even letters of persuasion to the government.
Research – Whether through books or online, children can research the animals that reside in the rainforests. They could research what life is like for people who live in and near rainforests and learn about how these people rely on the plants and animals there. Research the resources rainforests provide us with, such as bananas and coffee.
Teaching children how to save the rainforest
An important part of citizenship education is teaching children about the state of our planet and how we can protect it in the future. Your pupils are the next generation who will take on the responsibility of putting policies and systems into action, in order to try to address the damage that previous generations have caused.
Even KS1 children can learn about shared responsibility and positive action they can take that makes a difference to the planet and the lives of others.
- Make sure you have a recycling bin in the classroom and remind children what should be put in there.
- Reuse paper in class when possible. Highlight this to your class and explain why you have made that decision.
- Remind children often about not printing unless necessary and foster a culture of sharing resources in pairs to save on printing and paper.
- Communicate with families and send messages and information about the 5 R’s home.
- Talk to children about charities that work to save the rainforests and how they do this.
- Educate children about responsibly sourced materials and food. Help them to look out for the green frog Rainforest Alliance symbol on products, and the FAIRTRADE Mark.
- Help children and their families learn more about climate change and the threat this has on the rainforest. Simple lifestyle changes we can all make to reduce our carbon footprint include driving less and using less energy.
Your class will love learning about rainforests and how to save them. So get ‘Africa’ by Toto playing, sit down to plan your topic, let your imagination run wild and have some fun!