When you were a kid, what kind of adventures did you go on when you played? Where did these adventures take place? Chances are, many of your adventures took place in a “jungle.” Was I right?!!
There is just something so mysterious, dangerous and still so inviting about the jungle or as we call it now, the rain forest. Those fearsome animals, dark, deep shade created by the thick canopy and the incredible, constant, piercing high sounds induced by birds and insects.
Of course, my images were all fueled by frequent visits to the old Jungle Ride in Disneyland. Most of my games excluding the stereotypical game of “cowboys and Indians”, definitely took place in this land of danger and intrigue, most common being war games (I played with a lot of boys) and as a very young teen, “missionary nun” who tool care of sick patients in jungle dwellings akin to Deborah Kerr in “The Nun’s Story.” (I was a weird kid, what can I say?)
For today’s kids, who are so knowledgeable, know the rain forest as a place of wonder and beauty. It is the sacred home of many delightful animals and plants. They are also aware that the rain forest is essential to our existence. Wyatt (Rm 3) told me, “The rain forest has lots of trees. The trees give us oxygen.”
If you walk around the back fence in The Garden Classroom, you will see our own little rain forest. It started out simply with some plastic animals that live in the rain forests of South America and Africa. (I also share with the children that these animals are endangered animals because of the loss of their forest homes. Doing things like reusing paper helps the animals.)
I have also added other animals over time including some butterflies, frogs and a complete gorilla family. The children are starting to peek in the sensory table just to see what is new. It just so happened, at the same time I put these animals out, the children in Room 3 decided to do a play based on a story that takes place in the Amazon Rain Forest called The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry. I became involved with their project after helping several children mix up some green paint to paint the leaves for the prop in their play. (Of course, this segues right into our “Tree Project!”)
I invited some children to use the left over green paint used for the “great kapok tree” to paint a piece of paper. I hung up some soft, furry yarn and then invited some of the kids to cut out leaves and attach them to “the vines.” I hauled in a branch of an exotic looking tree branch with some interesting seed pods that I found down the street and laying on the ground. I hung it up with the vines. All I need now is to get a recording of wild screeching birds, insects humming and perhaps the rumbles of a jaguar!
Meanwhile, I kept thinking how several children from the Transition class were on hand while the older kids were mixing up their jars of green paint for the play. I could see how anxious they were to have the same experience.
Inspired by a book I own about the rain forest called The Green Room by Jane Yolen and illustrated (beautifully) by Laura Regan, I invited several Transition children to help create a green palette. Each child was given their own small jar and allowed to mix up a batch of green of any shade they wished. Such fun and excitement!
We looked at the picture, filled with a lovely variety of green leaves, back lit by sunshine. My only instruction on mixing up the green is asking each child, if they wanted to mix a “light” green or a “dark” green. I explained that it is easy to make a color dark but harder to make it lighter so it is important to start out with the lightest color first then add the darker color sparingly, a little at a time. I love the looks on their faces as the yellow turns green when the blue is added and the “magic” happens! Now, children from all three programs are involved with this project.
We are starting to get many wonderful shades of greens that reflect the great variety of greens in an actual rain forest!
This is a project that has many possibilities and will continue for a long time.
Please share your childhood experiences in the “jungle” and any inspiration as to where our exploration can go!
Do you have any tropical plants in your yard such as fan palms? I would love any donations if your plants need trimming!