New England tour guides take visitors to AMAZON RAINFORESTNEW ENGLAND — “I’m your tour guide and I’m going to tell you a little about the Amazon rainforest,” said New England third-grader Jayla Nelson.
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
NEW ENGLAND — “I’m your tour guide and I’m going to tell you a little about the Amazon rainforest,” said New England third-grader Jayla Nelson.
Nelson, along with her classmates and the second-graders, have been working for weeks to create rainforests in their classrooms — complete with trees, vines, insects, flowers, birds and animals. The project was highlighted with an open house on Thursday when the students took visitors through the rainforests they had created.
The rainforest project has become a tradition in New England, dating back 16 years ago when it was started by Nancy Gussey, second-grade teacher, and Judy Johnson, third-grade teacher.
“We do it every other year,” said Johnson. “They love it. From the first day they come to school, one of their first questions is, ‘Is this the year we do the rainforest?’”
Walking through the rainforest, Nelson pointed out an umbrella bird and macaw.
“Notice the army ants. There are thousands of them and they go in packs. When they walk over something, they devour it,” she said.
She pointed out the trees, vines and flowers growing high above to catch the sunlight.
“Some of the vines are called monkey ladders because monkeys climb on them,” she said.
She pointed out a taco toucan, flowers, butterflies and caterpillars. She stopped beside the bird-eating tarantulas — big enough to devour a bird.
“Then there’s the sausage tree — they look like sausages, but they’re not really sausages,” she said.
She stopped beside a Yanomami village hut and spoke about the rainsticks the people use for ceremonies.
Continuing on, she pointed out a tasier having large eyes to see in the dark, gecko, a jaguar and a uakari money.
“He got embarrassed in front of his friends — that’s why he has a red face,” she joked.
She warned that an electric eel was nearby, as was an emerald tree boa.
She pointed to a kinkajou, capybara, ring-tailed lemur and Basilisk lizard.
“They are really cool — they can stand on their back legs and run,” she said.
Concluding the tour, she said, “Thank you for coming to our rainforest. I hope you had a great time.”
Johnson said the Amazon rainforest unit takes up the social studies and science study hours.
“They learn so much about saving the earth, about the rain forest itself, all the different animals,” she said.
They also learn to work together in groups to plan how their part of the rain forest is going to look. They have compiled booklets of their writing — research on the animals and poems about the rainforest.
“They have become almost obsessed with saving the rain forest,” she said.
Third-grader Takoda Westling said the classes have assisted the Rainforest Alliance in saving the rainforest. The students raised more than $100 to purchase one acre of rainforest land.
“It’s a lot of land that’s safe now,” added Johnson.
The rainforest tour guide in second grade was Lucas Jarrell who pointed to a map of the Amazon rainforest located in South America.
He pointed to a Hercules beetle and a howler monkey that can be heard up to 3 miles away.
“Here we have a boa constructor — it squeezes its prey until it suffocates and eats it head first,” he said.
He pointed out a masked tityra, leaf-cutter ants, a red-eyed tree frog and a poison-dart frog.
“It’s the most poisonous frog in the world. The natives use its poison to put on their darts and arrows to kill their animals, he said.
He pointed to a Tucuxi dolphin, an Anaconda and a jaguar — the biggest cat in Amazon rainforest.
He showed a Yanomami hut, more flowers and butterflies, a coral snake and a tarantula with a baby.
He ended the tour by showing a living exhibit of butterflies and an experiment with growing grass in the rainforest.
“We have spent the last several weeks studying the rainforest and animals,” said Gussey.
The students have been researching the plants and animals and write reports about what they’ve learned. They have made papier-mâché animals — including a life-sized Anaconda.
“This is the second graders’ first experience with researching and finding information,” she said. “The parents are very involved.”
“We have trees made out of carpet rolls that are up to the ceiling,” Gussey said. “We figured out to save the carpet rolls from year to year.”
The children learned to be tour guides for the open house.
“We’re practicing,” she said. “They have little visors to keep the sun out of their eyes.”
This is the last rainforest unit for Gussey, who is retiring in May. She has taught in New England for 25 years and in Dickinson for four years. Living on a farm, she is looking forward to quilting, reading, traveling and spending time with her grandchildren.
“It’s going to be a very big change because my life has been centered around the school and activities,” she said. “I graduated from New England High School. This is my +.”
She can’t say if the rainforest tradition will continue, but if the students have a vote, it should.