Activity A.5: A Day in the Life

(Ed. note: PTK’s emphasis is on hands-on, “hard science” activities, So we had almost decided not to include this kind of “research and write up” exercise which seemed too “elementary” and which can be found in many other rainforest materials. Our attitude changed when Dr. Claude Gascon, field director of the ambitious and exacting BDFF project told us that he began his lifelong interest in frogs as a result of just such an exercise. . .and not in elementary school, but as an undergraduate student. So here we go. . .)
Teacher Background
Tropical rainforests possess an astonishing array of flora and fauna. While covering less than 10% of the of the land area of the Earth, they are home to between 50 and 90% of the world’s species—40% of all birds of prey, over 60% of all known plants, 80% of the world’s known insects and 90% of non-human primates.

Candidate Creatures: this is a small selection of plants and animals found in the Amazon rainforest. Those marked with an (*)asterisk are included in Activity 2.3, The Amazon Rainforest Food Web Game. Consider using those organisms if you want to integrate these two Activities.

(this category includes birds and insects)

Mahogany tree*
Capybara *
Harpy eagle
Scarlet macaw
Gaint damselfly*
Fig wasp*
Azteca ant*
Army ant*
Leaf-cutter ant
Howler monkey
Red-faced spider monkey*
Capuchin monkey*
Giant otter
Hoffman’s 2-toed sloth
3-toed sloth (or Ai)*
Collared anteater (or Tamandua)*
Brazilian tapir
Emerald tree boa*
Morpho butterfly*
Orchid bee*
Sloth moth*
Fruit bat*
Parasitic fly*
Bromeliad frog*
Poison dart frog
Cecropia cricket

Brazil nut trees*
Cecropia tree*
Tank bromeliad*
Forest cucumber*
Fig tree (Ficus insipida)*
Cocoa tree*
Gongora orchid*
Parkia tree*

Students will use appropriate research skills to investigate in depth the behavior, physical characteristics, and ecological niche inhabited by a particular rainforest life form. Students will create a diary entry (“A Day in the Life of. . .”) illustrating the habits and life style of their rainforest plant or animal, written from its perspective.
  • library research materials (see Multimedia Resources)
  • online access (if available), including the LFRF website.
  • Ecological
  • Niche
  • Diurnal
  • Habitat
  • Nocturnal
  • Parasitic
  • Range
  • Mutualistic
Read together or assign as an independent reading assignment, Claude Gascon’s Journal. Allow time to discuss this scientist’s field work in the rainforest. What is the purpose of his field research? What portion of the year is spent in the lab and which portion in the rainforest? Which might students enjoy most?
Explore/Explain: Procedure
  1. Ask student teams to brainstorm and list animals and plants of the rainforest. Compile master list on the chalkboard. Explain that tropical rainforests (such as the Amazon Rainforest that will be featured on the Live From the Rainforest broadcasts) while covering less than 10% of the land area of the Earth, are home to between 50 and 90 %of the world’s species.
  2. Review appropriate multimedia research skills; encourage accessing online information. Challenge students to research and create a comprehensive list of rainforest life.
  3. Have students choose a rainforest animal to research. At minimum, research should include
    • Common name
    • Kingdom/Phylum/Class/Order/Family/Genus/Species
    • Physical Characteristics
    • Habitat
    • Range
    • Food
    • Predator/Prey relationships
    • Place the organism in a typical food chain
    • Unique abilities or distinguishing habits
    • Effect and/or relationship of the organism to humans
  4. At conclusion of research, students should create a Journal or diary, written from the perspective of their organism that reflects at least one complete day of its life and that synthesizes the student’s research.
Work with the Art teacher to develop multi-dimensional versions of their plants and animals. Plan how the creatures researched here can be integrated into Activity 2.4, The Food Web Game. Bound and illustrated Journals might be shared with younger students in the school district, displayed as part of a Rainforest Expo (see Activity Z.3), used for assessment, reviewed with parents during conferences, excerpted for school newspapers and PTA bulletins. Creative writing may be shared online (see Classroom Connection in the Educator’s section).