[Note: This article was first published on Hubpages many years ago. It got a lot of traffic. It has since been unpublished by the new management at Hubpages. It has now found a home on PubWages.]
This week, my daughter was assigned a rainforest diorama to make. Her grade on this assignment counts as a science test. This is a little odd, I think, as the skills necessary to make an effective diorama fall mostly into the category of arts and crafts. I love art and so does my daughter, but let’s face it, doing well at making a diorama has next to nothing to do with understanding scientific concepts.
Any child who doesn’t have much ability in sculpting, drawing, cutting and pasting or graphic design is bound to do poorly on this project, no matter how much he or she may understand the rainforest as an ecosystem.
However, if an assignment in art is handed out, even if it is labeled as science, there’s no reason not to have fun while doing it!
- Is rainforest one word or two | ChaCha Answers
ChaCha has the answer to this question: Is rainforest one word or two Answer: The word rain forest is sometimes used as one word and others as tw… …MORE…
Spelling Issue: One Word or Two?
Before we get started on the project, the first issue that comes up is one of spelling. Is “rainforest” one word or two? The answer is: either way will do. It’s one of those words that are in the process of lexicalizing. This means some spell it as one word, and some as two, and neither way is wrong. I’ve chosen the one word spelling. My daughter’s teacher, in the assignment sheet, spells it as two. We are both correct.
The Hubpages capsule spellchecker likes two words better, although it does not always make its preference known. It seems to particularly object to the one word version when used as an adjective.
Reading the instructions
Before embarking on any school project, it’s always a good idea to make sure that your child has carefully read and understood the instructions. Here are the instructions for making the diorama that my daughter brought home from school:
Rain Forest Diorma
This diorama will be graded for your Test on Chapter 4, so your best effort is needed!
Directions: You are to make a diorama of a rain forest.
Due Date: Friday, October 23, 2009
- a shoe box
- plastic animals/plants or pictures/drawings of animals and plants
- you can make them from construction paper, play-dough, clay
You can use rocks, sticks, gravel, anything school appropriate. Ask if not sure.
The animals and plants should be appropriate for a Rain Forest.
You must have:
- Show interactions of organisms
- Diorama must be neat and readily understood
Please do not go out and purchase all these materials. There are things you can use without spending money. Use your imagination!!!!
- How to Make a Rainforest Diorama | eHow.com
How to Make a Rainforest Diorama. A rainforest diorama provides a three-dimensional scale model ideal for explaining the complex rainforest ecosystem. A diorama clearly displays each layer of the rainforest and the relative sizes…
- Make A Rainforest Diorama
Make a rainforest diorama. This diorama is unique in that its design shows you the important structure of the rain forest.
The Amazon River
Following the instructions
The module my daughter’s fifth grade class is studying is about the trophic levels or who eats whom, I gather. The rainforest is just an example of such an ecosystem. Plants are producers who take the sun’s energy and turn it into food. Primary consumers, who for some reason were not mentioned at all in the instructions, eat the producers. Secondary consumers, also not mentioned, eat the primary consumers. Scavengers take advantage of deaths already effected by others. Decomposers finish the mopping up operation by preying on the dead and rotting. And the teacher wants to see all this graphically depicted in a diorama. “Show interactions of organisms.”
We need to see herbivores munching on plants, carnivores in the process of devouring their prey, vultures tearing carrion to shreds, and bacteria decomposing rotting corpses. And just in time for Halloween!
Or, quite possibly I misunderstand the instructions, and this was the reason the consumers were left out of the list? Could it be that the teacher wants to see plants, sunlight, soil, and rotting timber with fungus growing on it, but no deaths involving animals that we could possibly identify with? But, in that case, why include scavengers?
I asked my daughter: “What was this science module about?”
She smiled shyly: “It’s about how all sorts of animals eat each other.”
Okay, then. We’re all on the same page. It should be an interesting diorama!
Red eyed tree frog
Why is it so hard to find pictures of animals eating other animals?
It’s easy to find photographs of rain forest animals on the web. Want to see a red eyed tree frog? You can find it easily. Want to see a red eyed tree frog eating an insect, its sticky tongue extended in the process of capturing its prey? Not so easy.
Want to see a jaguar in repose? No problem. Want to see a jaguar feasting on fresh caught meat? Not so easy.
Even pictures of Amazon villagers eating readily recognizable unprocessed foods are hard to come by. Is it possible that we have some kind of taboo about the nature of eating and food?
Plants of the Amazon Rainforest
Basic Rainforest facts
Besides having good arts and crafts skills, and a good dramatic flare for depicting the struggle for life, making a rain forest diorama should reflect some knowledge about the rainforest itself. A rain forest is a forest where it rains a lot, hence the name. There are two types of rainforest: tropical and temperate. There is more than one rainforest of each sort on this planet.
Temperate rain forest can found in North America (in the Pacific Northwest, the coast of British Columbia), in Europe (such as in the coastal areas of Ireland and Scotland, southern Norway, parts of the Western Balkans, northwest Spain, as well as areas along the eastern Black sea, such as Georgia), in Southeast Asia (southern China, Taiwan, much of Japan and South Korea), and in South America (Chile) and Australa and New Zealand.
Tropical rainforests can be found near the equator. Some famous tropical rainforests include those in Southeast Asia (e.g. Myanmar, Papua New Guinea), Sub-Saharan Africa (e.g. the Congo Rainforest, famous from Gorillas in the Mist), South America (the Amazon Rainforest), Central America (Bosawas) and on many of the Pacific Islands (e.g. Hawaii).
I asked my daughter which sort of rainforest she was supposed to do her diorama about. She said any rainforest would do. But then she went on to talk about jaguars and new world monkeys and macaw parrots, so I came to the conclusion that she was interested in the Amazon rainforest in particular.
King Vulture: A Scavenger
The King Vulture
The Amazon Rainforest and plants
The Amazon rainforest is the source of many medicinal plants, including trillium for snakebite, chincona to make quinine to treat or prevent malaria, and the coca plant from which we get cocaine, a stimulant that was once an important ingredient in Coca-Cola. However, how would my daughter’s teacher really feel if the diorama she turned in contained models of coca plants? To play it safer, I pointed out to my daughter that the original, uncultivated plants from which we get cocoa, our family’s recreational drug of choice, otherwise known as chocolate, also originated in the general vicinity of the Amazon. “Would you like to draw a cocoa tree for your diorama?” I asked.
“No, not really.”
My daughter’s interest in the rainforest does not extend toward any specific plants as producers. Her diorama featured generic trees and vines and moss, and generic over-sized flowers. She was much more interested in the animals.
Jaguar: The Ultimate Consumer
My daughter’s favorite animals are birds, so her diorama includes a macaw and and a King Vulture. She has included one amphibian, a tree frog, and three mammals, a jaguar, a woolly monkey and a little girl.
It was I who found the picture of the girl and her pet monkey and showed it to my daughter.
“She’s so lucky!” my daughter exclaimed.
“You can add her to your diorama,” I suggested.
“No, I can’t!”
“Because the teacher said not to add people where they don’t belong. She said she’d count off!”
“But there are people living in the Amazon,” I said. “They do belong there. It’s their home. They are part of the ecosystem.”
My daughter eventually agreed to add the girl and the monkey. “But I’m not saying he’s her pet, because that might make the teacher mad.”
Amazon girl and her pet woolly monkey: Both Consumers
- Jungle Photos Amazon People – Children
Junglephotos Amazon people children photos
Humans and other primates can and do live together
To me, that picture of the girl and the woolly monkey means more than words can say. There are those who hope to convince the general public that humans and primates can never coexist side by side, and that the only place for primates is in a zoo, a sanctuary, or “the wild.” The wild, they assume, is a place where humans cannot live. Their goal is to make sure that no primate ever be kept as a pet by another primate, and particularly, not by a human. They feel that such a relationship is unnatural. Even my ten year old daughter has picked up on the vibes, and she’s decided not to tell her teacher that the woolly monkey belongs to the little girl.
While I agree that a primate does not belong in New York City, it’s the city that is unnatural, not the primate. And yes, a rainforest is a place where people can and do live side by side with other wild animals.
Some of those who argue against co-existence mention that man took a long time to evolve out of the wild state, and only animals that have been domesticated along with man in his rise to “civilization”, like dogs and cows and chickens, can live near human habitations. These people forget that not all humans have followed the same path. There were humans long before there was agriculture. Some of us live much closer to the natural state than others.
Vermilion Waxcap Mushrooms: Decomposers
- WikiAnswers – What are the decomposers of the amazon rainforest
Wild Animals question: What are the decomposers of the amazon rainforest? fungi,bactiria,mosses
My daughter noticed my excitement about this project. “If you were in my class, you’d probably make all A’s,” she said. “You like doing this so much!” I laughed. I’ve been to fifth grade. Now it’s her turn. And this is her project. So maybe I should back off a little.
At first, my daughter was not nearly as interested as I was, but she started to get excited as the diorama began to take shape. In the end, she exclaimed: “This looks so good!”
Then she looked again, and sighed: “I’ll probably get counted off for neatness.” It’s true. It wasn’t all that neat. Strands of chimp hair were sticking to the pieces of tape she had used. The diorama is not nearly as organized as it might be. There are issues of scale and spacing. We don’t actually see any animals in the act of devouring other animals. But it’s a fifth grade science project — made by a fifth grader.
And besides, who ever heard of a rainforest that was neat!
(c) 2009 Aya Katz