Rainforest Layers: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

Hidden inside the layers of the rainforest is a unique world of life. In today's lesson, you'll learn about the layers of the rainforest and the plant and animal life that call it home.

What is a Rainforest?

Have you ever eaten bananas or chocolate? Or taken medicine when you were sick? If you have, chances are you've used something that came from the rainforest.

A rainforest is a forest that is hot and has a lot of rain. Rainforests are warm because they are located near the equator. Temperatures hover around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit and often go higher. Rainforests are humid, or have a lot of water in the air, and average around 100 inches of rain per year.

This map shows the location of rainforests in green.
rainforest map

More than half of all plant and animal species live in the rainforest. Think of it like a crowded amusement park with lots of different people. Trees in the rainforest produce about 40% of our earth's oxygen supply.

Just like a cake, the rainforest has different layers. These layers include: forest floor, understory, canopy, and emergent.

Forest Floor

The forest floor is the bottom layer and covers the ground of the rainforest. Due to the height and number of trees in the rainforest, very little sunlight reaches the forest floor and plants have a hard time growing.

This is picture taken from the forest floor.
picture from forest floor

There are a lot of insects including various species of beetles, termites, and ants. Reptiles and amphibians, like iguanas and frogs, and large animals like giant anteaters live on the forest floor.

Understory Layer

The understory goes to about 60 feet above the forest floor. It is made up of the trunks of trees that continue into the top two layers, smaller trees, and shrubs. With the tree tops above it, plants in this layer adapt to survive in conditions with little direct sunlight.

Animals in the understory include a variety of frogs, snakes, and fruit bats. Jaguars and leopards also spend time in the trees hunting. Insects are plentiful with the blue morpho butterfly and others living in the understory.

Canopy Layer

The canopy exists at approximately 60-90 feet above the forest floor where there is more sunlight. The canopy looks like an umbrella of thick leaves made from the tops of trees. This is where its name comes from, as it creates a canopy over the bottom two layers.

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