The Great Kapok Tree

Name: Diana Pyatigorsky                                                                 

Subject: Science

Lesson Title: The Great Kapok Tree

Grade: Fifth


  • The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
  • Ball of yarn
  • Index cards
  • Name Tags
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Pencils

Pre-assessment of Students Knowledge & Skills: (A) Students have been immersed in a unit on animal diversity and habitat. Students have explored several habitats and have strong knowledge of the animals that live there but are lack in-depth knowledge of the animals and plants of the rainforest.

(B)Students were able to accurately describe the components of a rainforest. They completed a K-W-L Chart on and used several resources to develop knowledge.

Content-Specific Standard(s):


Standard 4: Exploring Ecosystems

Identify how plants and animals in an ecosystem are connected.

Identify cause-and-effect relationships.

Interpret the energy flow in a food chain, energy pyramid or food web.

English Language Arts

SL.1.1. Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 5 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

Social Studies

People, Places, and Environments:

The complex relationship between human beings and the environments within which they live and work.

The Arts

Standard 1: Creating, Performing, and Participating in the Arts Students will actively engage in the processes that constitute creation and performance in the arts (dance, music, theater, and visual arts) and participate in various roles in the arts.

Objectives: Students will understand the interdependence of animals, people and plants in the rainforest by participating in an ecosystem simulation.


a)      Introduction and motivation. 5 min:

“Students, we have traveled to the rainforest and learned about what we may find there. Today we are going to learn how all the living things in the rainforest depend on each other to survive.”

Read Aloud of The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

b) Activities/Steps –

Direct instruction 15 min: Teacher will ‘think aloud” the thought process of paying attention to the many living things that rely on the Kapok Tree for their needs. Teacher will lead a discussion on the many uses of the tree by each inhabitant. Teacher will ask probing questions:

  1. How important was the Kapok tree?
  2. To whom was it important?
  3. How do you think the animals in the story felt when they saw a human who was bigger and strong than them chop down the tree?
  4. In the end, who had the final say? Power for what will happen? (humans)
  5. What are some examples in our community where our ecosystem may be in danger (littering, pollution, car exhaust)?

Work Time 20 min: Each student will receive an animal name tag with one of the following:

Kapok Tree

Tree Frogs

Boa Constrictor



Toucan, Macaw

Tree Porcupines




Yanomano Tribe Children

Students form a circle. The student that represents the Kapok Tree stands in the middle of the circle, holding a long rod upright, with 30 strings attached. Teacher will recite the story, prompting each animal takes a strand of yarn from the “tree”. This will form a “web of dependence” on the tree. Once all animals have been presented, the teacher (as a woodcutter) will cut the Kapok Tree down, cutting all “ties” from tree to animals. This action will represent “deforestation” and how it harms our ecosystem by creating an imbalance.


When you hear your name called, come to the Kapok Tree and he will give you what you need. (Kapok gives yarn string).

  1. The boa constrictor lives in the Kapok Tree. He slithered down the trunk. The Kapok Tree is the boa’s home. It has been home for our family for years and years. We are dependent on you for shelter.
  2. The bees buzz around the Kapok Tree. They have built their hive in the tree. The bees fly from tree to tree and flower to flower collecting pollen. They pollinate the trees and flowers throughout the rainforest. The Kapok Tree provides a place for bees to build many hives.
  3. The monkeys swing from vines to branches of the Kapok Tree. They are dependent on your vines to swing on. The Kapok Tree provides many vines to many monkeys to swing from branch to branch.
  4. The tree frogs crawl on your leaves. Tree frogs need the leaves to hide from predators – so they can be camouflaged. Your leaves match our skin perfectly.
  5. The jaguar also sleeps in the tree – he finds his lunch and supper in the Kapok tree. The Kapok Tree provides a home to the jaguar’s prey – the animals that he depends on for food.
  6. The porcupines swing down the Kapok tree from branch to branch: “We need you for our OXYGEN. All animals – people included – need you to breathe!
  7. The anteaters climb down the Kapok Tree with their young clinging onto their backs. They say: “our children are dependent on you. You provide us with a home! Without you, our children have no future!”
  8. The sloths began climbing down VERY SLOWLY from the canopy of the Kapok Tree. You are such a beautiful tree. On you, flowers grow and butterflies rest. You make the rainforest a beautiful place.
  9. Two children from the Yanomamo tribe walked up to the Kapok Tree and said: “You provide shade for the forest floor, and a sturdy trunk for our family’s home. On you we depend for fruits and other vegetation to eat.”
  10. Then the woodcutter came from the huge furniture factory.  He came with a huge, heavy ax and began chopping the Kapok Tree down. Soon, the entire tree was chopped down. (Pretend to “chop” down the tree, cutting all “ties” from Kapok Tree to animals).

Discuss Questions:

  1. How do you think the animals feel now that the Kapok Tree has been cut down?
  2. What will happen to the animals?
  3. What will happen to the people in the rainforest?
  4. In a “community” ecosystem such as the rainforest, all living things are dependent on one another, for food, shelter and many other things.  We share “resources” in our community to meet our needs, but we must be careful not to “use up” these resources or what will be left?

Closure 10 min: Students will discuss the probing topic and voice their curiosities.

Assessment: Teacher will assess understanding during conference time and during the share. Ask follow up questions if students are not confident with their explanations. Students will be assessed for their activity participation, their participation as audience members and their working material. Student project work will be reviewed against the rubric below.

Diversity: This lesson continues the work of opening a window into different modalities of learning such as Collaborative and Flexible grouping, scaffolding, varied time allowance, multiple intelligences, varied demonstrations, simulations, use of visuals and role play.


“A hands-on activity supports students who struggle with verbal skills” (Cornett, 2011). Using visual and tactile skills, students that struggle with writing are able to use the images to show that they understand the content. This lesson also supports concreteness of the topic with the use of pictures, labels and names



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