Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Rainforest Model

We started this Chocolate Unit by studying the tropical rainforest, which is where wild cacao trees are found. We learned about the different layers of the rainforest, epiphytes and bromeliads, animal life and plant life that lives in each layer, etc. We made this model (inspired by this picture here) of the four rainforest layers, using cardboard boxes for the layers, twisted packing paper and toilet-paper tubes for tree trunks, branches from our fake silk trees for branches (we'll put them back afterwards, and some were broken already), easter grass for vines, and our little toy animals.
There are lots of flying things up in the emergent layer
In the understory (growing up from the forest floor), we have our cacao tree---you can see the football-shaped pods (almonds colored red) growing all over the trunk and branches. Cacao pods really grow like that (as opposed to from the ends of branches, like most fruit)---a phenomenon called "cauliflory."
We also tasted this delicious drink (you can order a free sample here!) made from the pulp of the cacao pod. It doesn't taste like chocolate at all---it's sweet and fruity. This is what the birds and animals are trying to get to when they break open cacao pods, NOT the bitter cacao beans (seeds)! They eat the sweet white pulp and spit out the beans, which, as they fall on the forest floor, grow up into new cacao trees.

And, since we were going to be visiting the Redwoods shortly after this unit, we also talked about the temperate rainforest, which doesn't have cacao trees in it but is very interesting all the same! :) I didn't know before this that the redwood forests were actually considered rainforests.

The only trouble with this model is that it's kind of precarious and Goldie always crawls into it and tries to eat the almonds. (The bunny hops over and eats the almonds too, sometimes.) But the children are so proud of it they won't let me take it apart.

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