Layers of the Rain Forest

Grade Levels: 3 - 5


This lesson provides students with an opportunity to learn about the animals and plant life that live in various layers of the tropical rain forests.


Students will:

  • understand that rain forests have four distinct layers: emergent, canopy, understory, and forest floor.
  • study the different animals and plants that live in each layer.
  • create a class mural showcasing the distinguishing features of each layer in the rain forest.


40 minutes



  1. Introduce key vocabulary: habitat, emergent layer, canopy layer, understory layer, forest floor, epiphyte, leaf litter, liana.
  2. Have students read the Layers of the Rain Forest Article (individually or in pairs) and fill in the Vocabulary Worksheet.
  3. Ask the students to think of animals and plants that live in the different layers. Have them fill in the Venn Diagram.
  4. Divide students into four groups. Tell them that each group is responsible for depicting one layer of the rain forest on the class mural. They should label all plant and animal life for identification.
  5. After each group has completed their layer of forest, put each piece in order and hang the mural in the classroom.


Students should be able to:

  • define key vocabulary words.
  • fill in the Venn Diagram using clues from the Layers of the Rain Forest Article.
  • identify the four layers of the rain forest and the plants and animals that live there.
  • discuss the differences and similarities of the four layers in the rain forest.


  • Challenge students to create their own Venn diagram with more animals and plants found in the rain forest. Students can switch diagrams with a partner.
  • Have students write in their journals about why a spider monkey can live in the canopy and an anteater cannot (physical attributes, diet, etc.).


  • Life Sciences: Knows about the diversity and unity that characterize life
  • Visual Arts: Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts
  • Math: Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of functions and algebra (Venn diagram)

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