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South American Rain Forest Unit Study and the Poison Arrow Frog

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Our trip around the world led us to the South American Rain Forest. We extended our lesson plans quite a bit. Following the tiny poison arrow frog right down the rabbit trail.


Picture Books


The Great Kapok Tree – A man falls asleep in the forest after trying to chop down the Kapok Tree, and the forest animals convince him to leave their home alone.

A Walk in the Rainforest – A to Z book of rainforest plants and animals.

Where the Forest Meets the Sea – A boy imagines he is in the ancient rainforest and hopes the forest he plays in is not destroyed.

Easy Readers


National Geographic Readers: Frogs (Level 1)

National Geographic Readers: Monkeys (Level 2)

Chapter Books

Warning – this was a serious gateway drug. We have done nothing but Magic Tree House since we picked this one up. Nothing. But. Magic Tree House. 

Magic Tree House #6 Afternoon on the Amazon and the corresponding research guide: Rain Forests. He spent HOURS listening to the first 8 books on cd after we got this one. It is pretty incredible.


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Movies and Streaming Resources


Rio and Rio 2– Available to Rent on Prime
Emperor’s New Groove – Available to Rent on Prime
Kronk’s New Groove – Netflix
Up – Available to Rent on Prime

South America Unit – Streaming Resources
This list includes a slew of streaming resources – all included with Prime and Netflix. I also put together three weekly playlists for learning more about South American rain forests and animals to go along with our unit study from Build Your Library.

YouTube Playlist: Kindergarten Frog Playlist / Poison Arrow Frog
Roughly 35 minutes and one hopping good time.

Games and Activities

Gross Motor Practice – Move like a Frog!

I wish I’d gotten a picture of this, but it only happened once he refuses to perform for the camera. Rascal. We were reading about the life cycle of a frog, and he was having an especially wiggly day – rather odd for a five year old boy, no? So instead of sitting next to me, he wiggled down to the floor and acted it all out.

Curled up in a ball, he turned into a tiny frog egg floating in the water. Hatching from the egg was a human-tadpole, tadpole-human with gills and fins flopping all over the floor in his imaginary underwater habitat. He began to grow lungs and back legs at the same time, eventually emerging from the water can climbing ashore (onto the couch) where he hop, hop, hopped around for the rest of the afternoon. It was a pretty big deal when his tail fell off, let me tell you.

Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube


We love this lady. Cute stories get the kids up and moving, laughing, and exercising. These episodes are set in the rain forest, naturally.
Stezzi the Parrot
Stella the Stick Insect

Games and Activities

Rainforest Coloring Book

This coloring book has beautiful pictures and facts about the plants and animals on each page. I know we will be doing these projects again once Pickle and the Youngest are old enough, so I made photocopies of all the Oldest’s faves.

Rainforest Games and Activities

We played Chinese Checkers with poison arrow frogs (you could totally do this with regular Chinese Checkers, just call them frogs and make them jump), looked for the differences between two rainforest illustrations, and read about some of the animals in the included book – the best I can compare the book to is one of the Eyewitness books, but with larger writing.


We created this lapbook using a mixture of Scholastic Rain Forest reproducibles and the Frog Lapbook Printable from Homeschool Share. We also HAD to have a connect-the-dots frog, because that is his current main obsession.

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The Rain Forest book really had a lot of fantastic activities – beyond what I could have found free online. I’m sure we will be going back to this one time and time again. The grade range is 2nd to 5th grade, but many of the activities were fine for sitting side-by-side with a five year old. Some of our favorites were finding the Poison Arrow Frogs (which became the lapbook cover), making a rainforest food chain (a spider that eats birds?!?), and the Layers of the Rain Forest foldable from the left side of the lapbook.


Our culminating project was creating our very own Kapok tree with our favorite rainforest animals. He had so much fun making this, and I could see him processing all that we learned over the past few weeks – the layers of the rainforest, where each animal lived, remembering facts about each animal, and linking it all together.

  • We started by using a roll of white paper to make a tree on the wall – so when the Kapok tree comes down all the paint does not come with it.
  • The bark is ripped and crumpled brown paper bags (hello fine motor practice – ripping paper is good for little fingers) hot glued to the white paper underneath.
  • I cut out the construction paper leaves in groups of four while he skip counted-ish 4, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20… and hot glued those on along with the spiky bromeliad plant – home to poison arrow frogs, of course.
  • I printed out pictures of the animals from a google search on white label paper and helped him cut them out and apply them to the tree.

Oh and my husband brought the balloon home from work. Someone left it on the ceiling after a party. Nice find, hon!


Of course, no forest unit would be complete without experiencing what it would be like to climb to the emergent layer and cry out like a howler monkey. Just ask Dad.


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