Educator's Guide to the Assembly Program: RAINFORESTS ALIVE! ReptilesAlive! LLC 1/15

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1 Educator's Guide to the Assembly Program: RAINFORESTS ALIVE! ReptilesAlive! LLC 1/15

2 Program Overview Tropical rainforests are the most biologically diverse terrestrial ecosystems on our planet. More species of trees, plants, insects, reptiles, birds and other animals are found in tropical rainforests than any other place except, perhaps, tropical coral reefs. In this program, you will meet a variety of animals that live in tropical rainforests and learn how each animal is adapted to this habitat. We will also discover how the rainforest is divided into layers and learn how animals survive in these different layers. We will learn why tropical rainforests are important for animals and for all of us. Below is a list of possible animals your students might meet during this program: 1. Snakes(1-2) 3. Lizards(2-4) Boa Constrictor Green Iguana Honduran Milk Snake Tegu Prehensile Tailed Skink Crested Gecko 2. Amphibians(0-1) Australian Tree Frog 4. Turtles/Tortoises(1) Softshell Turtle Snapping Turtle Depending on the duration of your program, students will meet 5 animals (30 minute show) or 7 animals (45 minute show). For detailed information on individual animals please visit our website at and click on Animals. The following content provides you with materials that will aid you and your students in getting the best out of our program including: facts, vocabulary, suggested resources and activities which can be adapted for different age groups and SOL needs. ReptilesAlive! LLC 2/15

3 What is a Tropical Rainforest? Tropical rainforests are located near the equator, so they stay hot all year there is no winter as temperate regions experience. Rainforests receive 85 inches or more of rain each year, but there may be a dry and wet season. High humidity, constant warmth, lots of sunshine, and loads of rain promote plant growth year round. Trees become enormous! Scientists divide the rainforest into different levels: ReptilesAlive! LLC 3/15

4 The emergent layer is where the tallest trees (over 100 feet tall) break free of the canopy. In these towering tree tops live animals such as the majestic harpy eagle and the beautiful bird of paradise The canopy is where most of the action in the rainforest is happening. This is where all the tree branches have grown together to form a habitat for animals such as: monkeys, macaws, iguanas, treefrogs, prehensile tail skinks, carpet pythons, and other interesting animals. The under story is where all of the little trees are trying to grow and break through the branches above them. These trees may be very old even though they are small. You can find baby boa constrictors, geckos, and insects here. The forest floor is at ground level. This is a very dark, twilight zone area even in the day - because the branches and leaves above block out most of the light. In a mature rainforest, the forest floor is open and easy to walk through since plants have a hard time growing in such low light. The soil is very thin, but covered in a layer of decaying leaves that have fallen from above. Since the soil is very thin, the trees have big roots above ground called buttress roots. Animals such as giant toads, tegu lizards, and cockroaches are found here. Running through the forest is the river. The biggest river in the world is the Amazon River, which is in the biggest tropical rainforest in the world the Amazon Rainforest. (The Nile river is longer, but it does not carry as much water.) Periodically, the rivers will flood into the forest, and river animals like piranha fish, turtles, and caimans will swim through the trees. ReptilesAlive! LLC 4/15

5 Where are Tropical Rainforest? Tropical rainforests are found near the equator in: Africa Asia Australia Central America South America. They are also found on numerous tropical islands including: Madagascar New Guinea Puerto Rico Hawaii and others. Temperate rainforests (rainforests that are cool and might even have winter ) are located around the world including northwestern North America. The largest tropical rainforest is the Amazon rainforest in South America. ReptilesAlive! LLC 5/15

6 Reptiles Are Important to YOU Most species of reptiles serve as both predator and prey. The boa constrictor starts life as a tiny baby at the bottom of the food chain and provides food for other animals. As the boa grows larger, it nears the top of the food chain and helps to control populations of other animals. Food webs in most of our planet s ecosystems depend on reptiles. Certain reptiles are considered crucial for the way they modify their habitat. Desert tortoises dig burrows that spiders, snakes, rodents and other creatures need to survive the harsh desert conditions. Alligators dig gator holes during droughts that provide critical habitat for fish, amphibians, turtles and other wetland species. Without reptiles, many other animals would disappear. Some herbivorous reptiles act as seed dispersers and help plants. A few reptiles are also known to act as pollinators. As the olive white-eye bird has become scarce, the blue-tailed day gecko (Phelsuma cepediana) is now the main pollinator for the rare plant Trochetia blackburniana on the island of Mauritius. Reptiles help humans in other ways as well. Doctors utilize reptiles to help people every day. Snake venoms are used to make medicines that treat cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses. Crocodiles and alligators are being studied for their ability to resist bacterial infections. Lizards with the ability to regenerate lost tails are helping scientists discover how to help people with injuries. Farmers depend on snakes and lizards to reduce populations of rodents and insects. By eating rats, mice, and insects, reptiles serve as protectors of crop lands. Scientists and engineers are studying gecko feet to learn how they are able to walk up walls and upside down on ceilings. A gecko robot that can walk straight up a glass wall has already been built. In the future, look out for more amazing inventions based on gecko feet. ReptilesAlive! LLC 6/15

7 Why are Rainforest Important to you? Although rainforests may seem far away from where you live, these critical ecosystems are important to us all. Rainforests: Clean our air by filtering tons of carbon dioxide and creating oxygen. Stabilize the world's climate and produce rain for places far away. Provide homes to more species of plants and animals than any other ecosystem on earth. Are a source of medicines and foods. Are super-interesting places to visit and learn about. Right now, you might be breathing air, drinking water, eating a fruit and taking medicine to help you get better that all came from a rainforest! Rainforest Alive Dictionary A Adaptation: characteristics and behaviors that help an animal or plant survive. Amphibian: ectothermic, vertebrate animals (frogs, salamanders & caecilians) that typically have moist, slimy skin, usually lay jelly-like eggs in water, and go through metamorphosis to become adults. B Buttress Roots: large, wide roots that anchor tall trees in the thin, tropical rainforest soil. C Canopy: the part of the forest where the tree branches have grown together. Carnivore: an animal that eats other animals. Conservation: protecting natural resources. ReptilesAlive! LLC 7/15

8 D Deforestation: to clear a forest of all trees and vegetation. Decomposer: organisms that eat or digest dead plants, dead animals, and animal wastes. Dewlap: a flap of skin under the chin of some lizard species (such as iguanas) that is used for communication. E Ectothermic: (cold blooded) an animal that has a body temperature dependent on the temperature of the environment. Emergent Layer: the few very tall trees that stand out high above the canopy Endothermic: (warm blooded) an animal that has the ability to maintain its temperature above the temperature of the surrounding environment. Extinct: a species that once existed that has died out completely. F Forest Floor: a dark area where very little growth occurs usually covered with fallen leaves, flowers and twigs. H Habitat: a combination of climate, plants, geology and other factors combined to create an animal species home. Humid: moist or damp air (Summer in our area is usually very humid). I Invertebrate: an animal that does not have a backbone or spine N Natural Resources: material supplied by nature. Niche: the position or function of an organism in a community of plants and animals Nocturnal: animals that are active at night and sleep in the day. ReptilesAlive! LLC 8/15

9 P Photosynthesis: the ability of plants and certain other organisms to create complex organic materials (including sugar) by using sunlight, water, carbon dioxide, and inorganic salts. R Reptile: ectothermic, vertebrate animals (snakes, lizards, crocodilians, turtles, tuataras) that have dry, scaly skin and lay eggs with a shell or give birth to live young. S Species: groups of plants or animals that reproduce young like themselves. T Tropics (tropical): region of our planet lying between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, degrees north or south of the equator. U Under story: the forest layer beneath the canopy that is very shady, so the plants and trees areusually very small. V Vertebrate: an animal with a backbone or spine. ReptilesAlive! LLC 9/15

10 RELATED EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIESsssss MATH The two largest snakes in the world both live in the tropical rainforest. The Reticulated Python lives in the rainforests of South-East Asia and the Anaconda lives in the rivers of South America. Both of these snakes have been reported to reach 30 feet in length!!!! Have your students measure 30 feet and find out: How many students standing in line does it take to reach 30 feet? How many inches are in 30 feet? How many meters are in 30 feet? How many centimeters are in 30 feet? ReptilesAlive! LLC 10/15

11 LANGUAGE, READINGS & SPEAKING This is a great activity to do after the show. Let the students know that they are going to be Wildlife Educators, just like the Wildlife Educator who came from Reptiles Alive. Go to the library and have the students pick out rainforest or animal books. Have each student pick a favorite animal that lives in the tropical rainforest. Now see if the student can find the answers to these questions and have them do a show about their animal. It s even better if they have a picture or toy of the animal to show the class while they do their presentation. What part of the world does this animal come from? (Asia, Africa, etc ) What part of the rainforest does it live in? What are the animal s favorite foods? How does it get its food? How does it escape from its enemies? How big does it get? What makes this animal special/interesting/important? ReptilesAlive! LLC 11/15

12 ART Let the students paint or draw their favorite animal from the Rainforests Alive! Show. Have the students paint or draw the different layers of the rainforest and then draw some of the animals that live in the different layers. This is especially fun as a mural project. Play an audio recording of the tropical rainforest (you can get mood tapes/cds of the tropical rainforests and most music/book stores) while the students are working on their art. ReptilesAlive! LLC 12/15

13 Resources The National Wildlife Federation has a FANTASTIC series of books for teachers called Nature Scope. Contact the NWF to purchase a copy of the Tropical Rainforest edition of this great series. There are loads of great websites with great activity suggestions for teachers. The National Zoo in Washington, DC and the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD both have wonderful rainforest exhibits. Take a field trip or suggest to the students that they go with their family to see these beautiful and educational exhibits. There are many ways students can pursue their interest in animals and learn more about reptiles and amphibians. Visit your local library for great books about herps. Take a trip to a nature center, museum, zoo, or aquarium. Be sure to read the information about the animals on display. There are usually staff members available to answer your questions. Check out nature and animal programs that are offered at nature centers, libraries and other venues across the area. Visit the website of your local nature center or library for a list of upcoming programs. You can animal questions to Reptiles Alive! LLC. Our is How can students help reptiles and other wildlife? The best way students can help reptiles and other animals is to educate themselves about wildlife and then teach others what they have learned. People are more likely to care for and respect animals they understand - education leads to conservation. ReptilesAlive! LLC 13/15

14 How can students become Zoologists or Herpetologists? It can be tough to land a career in herpetology. Math and all the sciences are a requirement for anyone interested in working with animals. Reading, writing, and communication skills are also required for a career in herpetology. Remind students to learn as much as they can in these basic areas to help them succeed when they get to college. Older students seriously interested in herpetology may want to join a herpetological society such as The Virginia Herpetological Society (Website: Other states and areas have herpetological societies as well that you may find on the internet. High school students should consider volunteering at a local nature center or zoo to gain real life experience working with animals. Most herpetologists and zoologists began their careers as volunteers or interns. A great resource for further reptile career reading is: Further Resources: has a variety of resources including other lesson plans, craft and activity ideas. There are also animal pages and general reptile and amphibian information available. For more information, projects and ideas please visit our website at If you have specific questions about this program, please call Reptiles Alive! LLC at (703) and we will be happy to assist you. Image Sources: Picture of the rainforest from Layers of the rainforest from Rainforests of the World from Photo of people holding a reticulated python from Laying down to measure snake from Old fashion measuring tape schematic Reptiles from ReptilesAlive! LLC 14/15

15 King Cobra range from Snake watercolor from ReptilesAlive! LLC 15/15

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