Chances are you either live in a forest or close to one. But, even if you traveled to a distant land, your local forest and all other forests have one thing in common...they are areas where trees and other woody plants dominate. All forests share some general characteristics too. They all have a top layer, called a canopy. It’s the place where the crowns of the trees meet. Forests have an understory layer, which is where smaller shrubs and young trees grow. Under all that is the forest floor, which, depending on how much sunlight filters through the canopy, may or may not be crowded with small plants. That doesn’t mean all forests look alike though. In fact, there is a wonderful variety of forests around the world.
There are three main types of forest: tropical, temperate, and boreal. Whether a forest is a tropical forest, a temperate forest, or a boreal forest, depends on the seasons and where on Earth they are growing.
Tropical forests grow near the equator. There are rainy and dry spells in the tropics, but there is never a winter. In fact, the temperature is about the same every day of the year! There are so many different kinds of trees in tropical forests that a small patch of forest can have100 different types. There are also many, many types of animals in tropical forests. Small, furry animals, insects, bats, and birds, like toucans and parrots, make tropical forests noisy, active places.
Temperate forests can be found in places where the temperature changes during different times of the year, such as the eastern part of North America, and some parts of Asia and Europe. There is a winter, but there is also a span of four to six months where there is no frost or snow. These forests get most of their moisture from rain. The trees in temperate forests usually have broad leaves that drop off in the Fall. Unlike tropical forests, there are fewer kinds of trees in temperate forests. A small patch of forest in temperate areas might have only three or four types of trees. Oak, maple, and elm trees are some of the tree types that grow in temperate forests. Squirrels rabbits, deer, mountain lions, fox, and black bears are some of the animals that live in temperate forests.
Boreal forests grow in places that are cold much of the time. They are found closer to the North Pole in North America, Asia, and Europe. Summers here are short and winters are long. Most of the moisture that falls on this kind of forest is snow. Conifers, trees that have needle-like leaves such as pine trees, grow in boreal forests. Moose, bear, wolves, deer, and chipmunks are animals that thrive in boreal forests.
A World of Forests Scavenger Hunt
To help students identify the different forests of the world and some of the characteristics that differentiate them.
Using the background information, discuss with students the three main types of forests around the world and some of the special circumstances where they sometimes grow. Be sure to tell students how forests growing on mountains, on islands, along streams and rivers, and in urban areas function, and how a new forest changes into an old growth forest.
Begin by breaking students up into small groups and giving each group a copy of the scavenger hunt and a set of magazines, old calendars, or photographs. Also give each group scissors, glue, and poster board or large paper. (For younger students, you might want to read each scavenger hunt item aloud and have students look for the items one at a time.)
Give students plenty of time to look for pictures that illustrate the items on the scavenger hunt list. Tell students they may not be able to find samples of all the scavenger hunt items, but they should find as many as possible. Students should then cut out the pictures and glue them on the poster board. When all groups have finished, ask each group to share their findings with the rest of the class.
* The Treeture characters, as learning tools, can be adapted to any grade level. For example, students in grades K-1 could utilize coloring pages, finger puppets, and collages. Stories, poems, creation of new Treeture characters, newsletters, and plays could be fun and used as mentoring projects by 5th and 6th graders for younger students. Another entertaining and educational activity is to hold a Treeture Fair. This project has been successfully implemented in several schools. Each Treeture character can be enlarged and placed on an easel on a table with an appropriate experiment or example of its tree role.
Take the scavenger hunt outside! Bring students to a forest (including an urban forest) on or near your school grounds and have them hunt down the items on the scavenger hunt list. Be sure to tell students to only collect nonliving items or small plant samples. Animals sightings can be written down on a piece of paper.
Totally True Treeture Trivia:
America’s Forests by Frank Staub
A Forest Community by Elizabeth Massie
The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forests by Lynne Cherry