Activity 1: Looking at leaves
In this section the children will explore different shapes as they learn about the rainforest. They compare shapes that can be found within the rainforest with the shapes they can form with their body and fingers, the shapes within their classroom, and in their own backyard!
Looking at Leaves
Read Let’s Walk with Chayo by the Rainforest Alliance
- Ask: What animals would you see if you went walking in the rainforest?
Show students the picture on page 5 of Let’s Walk with Chayo.
- Ask: What do you notice about the leaves in this picture?
Turn to page 10.
- Ask: What do you notice about this leaf shape?
Dance with the leaves
Hold up outlines of leaf shapes from Let’s Walk with Chayo.
- Ask: How could you use your body to make this shape? Can you make this shape with your whole body? With your fingers? While you are sitting? While you are standing? Repeat this process with the other leaf shapes.
- Have the children scatter the leaves around the play area and stand among them. Tell the children they will be listening and moving to music from Chayo’s country Colombia. When the music starts, encourage the children to use the rhythm of the music as their movement guide or invite the children to move around the area like an animal (e.g. crawl like a spectacled bear, fly like a toucanet, or walk like an ant.) When they music stops, each child should find a leaf shape to stand on and create the shape with his or her body. Repeat the process.
Compare local leaf shapes to rainforest leaf silhouettes
- Ask: What is the same about these leaves? What is different?
- Explain that because there are so many trees in the rainforest, many are competing for sunlight to grow. Shorter rainforest trees, growing in the layer called the understory, have big leaves so they can try to capture as much sun as possible. See sample leaf shapes page.
Go for a shape walk!
- Ask: What shapes would you see if you went walking in the rainforest with Chayo?
Show students the images of rainforest leaves and see if they can point out circles, triangles, ovals and squares.
Ask: What would we see if we went for a walk in our neighborhood?
Before the walk make “shape necklaces” by cutting out shapes from construction paper. Print the name of the shape on each cutout and punch a hole in each. Hold up each shape in turn, and ask the children to identify it.
Ask: Do you see anything in our classroom that is this shape?
- Give each child one of each shape and show how to string the shapes on yarn (or pipe cleaners) to make necklaces or bracelets. You could also consider starting with just one shape and adding more shapes over time.
- Take a short walk outside to look for shapes. When you see an object that looks like one of the children’s shapes, hold up the appropriate cutout and say “I spy something shaped like a ____.” Encourage the children to look for that particular shape in nature. Repeat with the other shapes. Encourage the children to look for shapes on their own and say, “I spy something shaped like a ___.” With very young children, add colors to the description (e.g., I spy something that is yellow and is shaped like a ____.”)
When you return to the classroom, hold up each cutout shape in turn.
- Ask: What did you see outside shaped like a ____?
- Ask: What shapes did you see the most?
- Ask: Which shapes are your favorites?
Create dried leaf art
During your nature walk, have children collect dried leaves, twigs and seeds. Return to the classroom and make designs of rainforest animals using natural materials.
Sample leaf art:
Created by teachers in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve during a professional development workshop.
Ehlert, Lois. Leaf Man. Harcourt, Inc., New York: 2005. (Ages 4-8)