Rainforest and Tu Be’shvat

By: Amy Musler, Rufina Feld, Tilly Pelz, Cherry Kruse, Ravit Eldar
from Denver Jewish Day School

Interdisciplinary Integration

Subject(s) of entry:
Art, English/ Writing/ Language Arts, Music, Philosophy/ Values/ Ethics/ Hashkafa, Science, Social Studies, literature

Experiential Education, IBL - inquiry based learning, PBL - project based learning

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
K, Elementary school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
K, Elementary school

Why are trees important in our world and what is our role in taking care of trees? Our kindergarten students learned about the importance of trees in our world while studying about the the rain forest and the holiday of Tu Beshvat. Our learning concluding with performance of the Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry.

Entry Narrative

Step 1


The project kicked off with a field trip to the Denver Botanic Gardens where students had a hands on experience inside  the tropical discovery. There they were able to use all five of their senses to begin exploring the  rainforest.  Students planted plants and took these home to share with their families. Students left the Botanic Gardens excited to learn more about the rainforest and answer many of their unanswered questions.


Step 2

Students returned to school the next day where they started a 4 week study about the rainforest. Students listened to stories, watched videos, took a virtual field trip of the rainforest and participated in dialogue about the importance of the rainforest. We checked out a loan box from the Denver Zoo which included additional information and books for the students to look at.  The zoo box also had different animal pelts and pictures of animals that live in the zoo.


Step 3

After a week of learning we read the Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry  Students made a list of animals that live in the rainforest. Students chose an animal to learn more about.  Students were put into small groups based on their choice of animal. With adult assistance students learned more about the animal of their choice. In cooperative groups, they discussed why the rainforest was important to that animal and then wrote a line for a play about the Great Kapok Tree.

(Copy of the lines written by kindergarten students for the skit about the rainforest.)

(Students work in cooperative groups to create the lines they write for the skit about the rainforest.)

Step 4

Students began preparation for a skit about the rainforest based on the story of the Great Kapok Tree.  Students learned several songs about the rainforest: Take Me Into The Rain Forest, If You Love Our Trees Shout Hooray, Let’s Plant A Tree. Students also prepared a backdrop for the skit. They practiced their lines about why trees are important in the rainforest and shared a new fact about a rainforest animal.


Step 5

Students did a skype interview with a teacher from a local museum called the Butterfly Pavilion. During the skype the class met a hissing cockroach and learned about its habitat in the rainforest. They also had the opportunity to label parts of the insect as they completed the skype.


Step 6

The unit was concluded with a performance of the Great Kapok Tree which was performed on Tu’Beshvat  in front of an audience. Following the skit  families were invited to return to the classroom where they created a Hebrew/English family tree.


(Students rehearse for skit about the rainforest.)

(Family tree created for Tu’Beshvat.)

Major Products:

  • create a Hebrew/English family tree with the assistance of family members
  • develop and write speaking lines for a play on the rainforest
  • create a rainforest backdrop for the skit
  • perform a play about the  rainforest  which included several songs about the rainforest and the song Let’s Plant A Tree – in honor of Tu’Beshvat

Learning Targets:

  • learn about the holiday of Tu’beshvat while researching their families and making a family tree with their parents
  • choose a rain forest animal of interest and research it with some adult assistance
  • collaboratively write lines for a play about the rainforest
  • rehearse and orally present a skit to a large audience




Entrant Bio(s)

Amy Musler has been employed as a kindergarten teacher at Denver Jewish Day School for 13 years. Amy teaches all the secular studies. During the last two years she has been teaching Judaics as well. She is passionate about teaching kids to read.
Tilly Pelz has been a kindergarten assistant teacher for over 25 years at Denver Jewish Day School. She loves teaching kindergarten and is passionate about kids.
Rufina Feld has been the Denver Jewish Day School lower school musical director for over 14 years. She loves helping all the teachers integrate music in their classroom.
Cherry Kruse has been a kindergarten teaching assistant for over 30 years at Denver Jewish Day School. She is a dedicated and loyal teacher.