It’s a beautiful autumn day here in Montreal and the carpets of yellow leaves make a golden backdrop for the blackness of the tree trunks; the air is damp and smoky as people light up fires to warm themselves from the Saturday evening chill. It seems a long way from the tropical forests!
I was lucky enough to visit the rainforest in Costa Rica, a magical place filled with bird and monkey cries, exotic fragrances and some not so cuddly critters…..like tarantulas!
When I began this journey of writing songs for kids about nature I read everything I could about what was happening on earth, to the earth! That was back in 1989 and the prospects for the Amazon rainforest seemed pretty bleak; seven footballs fields per day were being destroyed, according to most accounts. Sadly the destruction continues and a report earlier this year from Greenpeace and the Guardian highlights some of the on-going problems. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/may/31/cattle-trade-brazil-greenpeace-amazon-deforestation
With kids, I choose to focus on the beauty and marvel of these forests; illustrating how they are the lungs of the earth; that they are home to at least five million species (including humans), which is between 50-80% of all living things!
Rainforests play a major role in the local and global climate; they contribute a wealth of ingredients to much of the medicine that we use; over seven thousand compounds used in western medicine today are derived from rainforest plants. Many products that are familiar to us come from the rainforest or contain an ingredient from there.
Fascinating people continue to live in these forests, like the Yanomani of Brazil and the Penan in Borneo; their knowledge of rainforest plants and animals is precious and can be extremely beneficial to us all.
Lynne Cherry’s book The Great Kapok tree, http://www.lynnecherry.com/ is a wonderful story to introduce children to the wonders of these tropical forests. My song, the Tropical Forest can be used to make Lynne’s book into a musical! I have uploaded the song to my Myspace page: (http://www.myspace.com/iirainbowdolphin for those interested. I have also uploaded the Slothful Sloth song and the Ant song, Bat song and Mosquito song are all still up there. You can download the Slothful Sloth song for free while it is up!
Animals of the Rainforest is a good video and can be found Online at Video Library:
Schools I visited sometimes had classrooms that were turned into rainforests! They decorated with pictures, played a rainforest tape with sounds of the birds and monkeys, sprayed everyone with a fine mist to imitate the constant moisture and had a rainforest feast with Brazil nuts and rainforest crunch ice cream, from Ben & Jerry’s!
Interconnections! The example I gave in my previous blog about toucans is good – toucans eat berries and then poop out the seeds far and wide in the forest, helping the trees ensure their chances of survival. Fruit bats do this too. Harlequin beetles transport pseudo scorpions around helping them to reach new habitat – they feed on decaying fig trees; cutter ants chew up leaves and make compost piles under the ground where they grow mushrooms! Rainforests act as carbon sinks, meaning that they ingest huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and replenish it with oxygen. There are so many connections to discover in tropical rainforests not the least of which is the fact that they impact the entire earth through their cycles of moisture and release.
Have fun learning!
For the earth,