4-8 Grade


Amazon Facts



  Opened in June of 2001, RainForest Adventures is a unique educational facility featuring live animals from around the world.  Focusing primarily on the fragile eco-systems of the world’s rain forests our goal is to introduce students of all ages to the living jewels that are the earth’s natural spaces and motivate them to take action, to learn about, and ultimately help protect our wonderful living natural treasures.

The following material is provided free to educators for the purpose of assisting in preparing their students for an educational and exciting field trip to Rain Forest Adventures and beyond! 

The programs have been produced to cater to the specific grade range of your students.  If you find you need additional information or wish to inquire in anyway please contact us directly via email, it is our goal to help you motivate and excite your students. 

"Caring results from understanding"


Like all good explorations into the unknown a good preparation will ensure a good outcome to the expedition, learning is no different!  A person would never even consider climbing Mt. Everest without preparing the necessary items such as food, oxygen, water, tents etc. The same need for preparation applies to your educational-jungle-expedition into the sights and sounds of RainForest Adventures.  The educational staff of RainForest has prepared many interesting and exciting curriculum support materials for your trip. 

Why take this Field Trip?

Your students are naturally curious about plants, animals, and the natural world around them. Teaching them about what they already have an interest in produces great results!  Our exhibits were created with the student in mind; educational signage as well as natural habitats spurs the student’s minds to engage in the experience around them.   

What will my students be exposed to?

Your students will be exposed to biology, ecology, conservation as well as many other aspects of the natural sciences.  Our exhibits as well as animal collection expose your students to virtually every aspect of our planets eco-systems.

What is Before, During & After?

Before, During & After programs were developed to help you prepare your students before their visit with suggested vocabulary words, the during component contains suggested activities while at RainForest and the After aspect of the program will help review all of the materials learned while at the RainForest!


How easy to use are the programs?

All of our programs are developed by grade range to ensure ease of use and applicable material by age range.  You will find the programs extremely self-explanatory.  

How To Use This Program

o       Before, During &After….The Complete RainForest 

  • All of the pre-visit activities were produced to assist educators in creating an inquisitive and exciting atmosphere in the classroom prior to your trip to the RainForest.
  • On-site activities are centered on the many exhibits at the RainForest.  Your students are encouraged to “Scavenger Hunt” for information, record their findings and prepare themselves for future in-class discussions. 
  • Suggestions are given to educators to enhance the visit to the RainForest by continuing the field trip in the classroom after you have returned.  Activities such as listing the number of species, drawing of the students favorite animal, etc. all extend the experience and encourage additional learning on the part of the student and the TEACHER!

Fourth-Eighth Grade 


 Like all good explorations into the unknown a good preparation will ensure a good outcome to the expedition, learning is no different!  One would never even consider climbing up Mt. Everest without preparing the necessary items such as food, oxygen, water, tents etc. The same need for preparation applies to your educational-jungle-expedition into the sights and sounds of RainForest Adventures.

 Vocabulary Preparation

Both zoos and zoologists use many different words in the course of their day that may be foreign to students.  Our vocabulary preparation program helps educators and group leaders alike prepare their group for what they are about to see and learn.  Review with your students the following words and their related meanings.  Ask your students to give you examples of what they think some of these words mean after they hear the definition.  Each group of vocabulary words has been developed with the aid of teachers and group leaders to best target the students in a particular age range.  However your group may be more or less advanced than others, please feel free to utilize vocabulary words from any age range to enhance your students’ ability to learn.  


4th-8th Grade Vocabulary  (Before) 

Threatened-vt. A species is threatened when the habitat the animal lives in is under intense pressure or the animal itself has been over-collected either for the food, leather or pet trade.  A threatened species requires special help from national and international agencies to ensure it does not become endangered.

  • African Elephant--Poached for their meat and tusks, this animal has suffered at the hands of hunters.  A long lived and intelligent animal the Elephant is disappearing from it's wild places at an alarming rate.
  • American Barn Owl--Once a common inhabitant of our vast grasslands of the Mid-Western United States, this animal is under pressure as more and more of our open spaces are converted to developments of various kinds.  An excellent mouse hunter this creature will be sorely missed by many a farmer if we do not stop the losses. 

Endangered-vt. An endangered animal has reached a critical point, through habitat loss or through other pressures the species is facing extinction.  Immediate and drastic measures must be taken to ensure the gene pool is large enough to secure the animals future.  Additionally immediate measures must be taken to ensure the animal’s habitat is saved to the greatest extent possible. Intervention by zoos at this point can be a critical measure in saving the species for possible reintroduction into the wild in the future.

  • Black Rhinoceros--Hunted for their horns these magnificent animals are widely regarded as living dinosaurs by most experts.  They have remained largely unchanged for millions of years.  They can not out run the hunters bullets as their horns are prized in mid eastern countries as handles for knives. 
  • Giant Panda--With less than 1,000 left in the wild these animals can only live on the bamboo found in their mountainous habitat located in China. 

Extinct-vt  A species of plant or animal that no longer exists.  It is gone forever.

  • Ivory Billed Wood Pecker---The animal has not been seen since the early 1950's.  Once ranging in the Southeastern United States, this animal required old growth forests to survive, once the forests were all logged the animal disappeared.
  • Passenger Pigeon--Less than 100 years ago this animal lived in the Southeastern United States in large numbers.  Hunted to extinction this animal is survived by the common Pigeon we see living in most parks and urban areas.  A few preserved examples of the Passenger Pigeon can be seen in museums such as Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History. 

Diversity-n. The Bio-diversity of a rain forest is one of the most amazing on earth, only the coral reefs of the world rival the number and scope of species found in the rain forests of the world.  Diversity refers to both plant and animal diversity.  Many species of animals rely on each other to form the food chain that depends so much on healthy diversity.  Symbiotic relationships abound from the largest animals to the smallest relying upon each other to survive in this complex environment.

Venomous-adj. Many people believe that snakes are poisonous they are in fact venomous.  Venom is a highly developed form of saliva used to subdue prey or ward off threats by other predators.  Snakes and many other animals, (spiders, some forms of fish, and two forms of lizards just to name a few) utilize venom in their everyday existence.   Poisons are chemicals etc. that can be ingested, i.e. kitchen cleaners, bleach etc.

Herbivore-n. A herbivore is an animal whose diet consists solely of plant material

Carnivore-n. A Carnivore is a plant or animal whose diet consists solely, or primarily of meat. Can you name the plants that are carnivorous?

Omnivore-n. An omnivore has a diet of both that of a carnivore and an herbivore. Some animals start out life as carnivores and later develop into primarily herbivores. (The Bearded Dragon from Australia is one such unusual animal)  Humans are usually omnivores. 

Insectivore-n  An insectivore consumes only insects as it's primary food source.

 Marsupial-n. Mammals with pouches, they give birth to their babies in a very early stage of development.  The babies actually crawl under their own power into a pouch located on the mothers body, they will stay in this pouch for up to several months until they have developed enough size and stamina to venture out on their own.  Most marsupials are found on the continent of Australia, the United States does have it’s own marsupial. Can you name it?


4-8 RainForest Quest (During)


This section of the program contains suggested questions and answers for your students to use during their visit to the RainForest.  Once again, this is an optional exercise that for you’re use to help your students gather as much information as they can during their visit to the RainForest.


1.  Q. Why do rattlesnakes rattle?

     A. In an effort to warn a potential predator, “Leave me alone I can hurt you”.  All venomous                animals use their venom primarily to subdue prey, utilizing it as a deterrent for a predator is secondary.  Warning sounds in nature can and do take on many different forms.  Most other snake species will hiss loudly when threatened.  

2.  Q. Do Rainforests occur in the United States?

     A.  Yes, the Northwestern United States, even into Canada!  Most people think of the tropics when discussing rain forests.  The temperate regions of the world also have significant landmass that is now or once was rain forest. The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the oldest rain forests in the world!  The biodiversity is fairly limited compared to tropical rain forests.   

3.  Q. Would a tortoise eat a mouse?

     A. No, they are herbivores.   On rare occasions in the rain forests of South America the giant red footed tortoise will consume carrion as a source of calcium.   

4. Q. Would a snake eat a salad?

    A. No, they are strict carnivores.  Of the 2,600 species of snakes in the world not a single species eats any vegetable matter at all!  With the exception of a few species such as the North American Green Vine snake, most will not even eat insects! Virtually all snakes eat rodents of some type or another. 

5.  Q.  Why are most crocodilians endangered?

     A.  Use by man for the meat and leather trade, as well as significant habitat loss.   The American Alligator is making a remarkable comeback from the brink of extinction.  The Alligator is a true success story that teaches us what intervention to stop over collection for food and leather will do for a species.  

6.   Q.  Which snake in the United States causes more deaths per year than any other?

      A.  The western diamond back rattlesnake.   This wide-ranging animal can be rather aggressive.  The most likely place to encounter this snake is on ranches and farms.  

  1. Q. Why are Coral Snakes so brightly colored?

      A.  To warn predators, don’t mess with me!  The Coral Snake has chosen the opposite of camouflage as his defense!  He wants to be seen and has a very clear message for any potential predators, “Eat at your own risk” Warning colors in nature tend to be in the reds and yellows, there is probably no coincidence that our stop lights are red and yellow!   

8.   Q.  How long can tortoises live?

      A.  Over 100 years is a common age, the giant Galapagos tortoise has been recorded over 150 years old.   

9.   Q. Can you name at least two continents that have Rain Forests?

      A. Australia, Africa, South America, Asia, North America  

10.  Q.  What is camouflage?

       A.   Coloration, or physical adaptation that helps an animal hide from its enemies.  The use of camouflage can be to assist in hiding from predators or prey.  The stripes on a Zebra actually confuse a Lion or Cheetah while the animal is running, the slightest hesitation on the part of the Lion buys the Zebra the needed one or two seconds to gain an advantage in a high speed pursuit.


 4-8 Classroom Quest (After)

 Now that your class has returned from its trip to RainForest, you can use this opportunity to review and revisit some interesting questions about your exploration.  All of the signage at RainForest was created to emphasize geographical location; diet, size etc. use this information to create questions after your visit to the RainForest.  Here are a few suggestions for in-class programs that you may wish to use to enhance your students visit.                     

Pick a Continent, any Continent!  (This activity can also be used during your visit to the RainForest, simply divide your students into teams prior to your arrival)  

Divide your class into teams, how many species or individual animals can your students name from a particular continent.  Include all animals, even those not housed at RainForest such as lions, tigers etc.

Why do certain species from some continents so closely resemble animals half a world away? (Answer: Plate tectonics moved large landmasses eons ago. The land masses contained similar animals that are now spread apart by thousands of miles)

Why does Antarctica have no reptiles and amphibians?  (Answer: Cold-blooded, or ectothermic, animals cannot withstand the lack of heat.)

Geography begins to play a role in the daily educational world of students in this age range, a great way to get them to think about various parts of the world geographically is to link the area to animals, association works wonders!  


Myths & Legends 

(4-8th Grade)  

Wow, what a subject.   No other group of animals has suffered from as many myths and legends as reptiles and their closely related kin.   Since the beginning of time we have feared, loathed and even worshipped serpents, crocodilians, and believe it or not, spiders too!  The reality is this group of amazing creatures does not posses any supernatural powers; in fact they are quite mortal and have suffered horribly as a result of misguided actions by uninformed peoples the world over.  

When Europeans settled North America they were introduced to all kinds of new creatures.  Much of Europe is in a cooler climate than our lower 48 states, as a result we have considerably more reptiles and other creepy crawlies living in our midst here in the U.S. than our fore fathers were used to seeing. 

Much of the mythology that pervades today is a result of the early settlers and the lack of knowledge that we have gained over the last 100 or so years.  

Snakes in particular did themselves no favors by shedding their skins!  This act appeared to the untrained eye to be creating a whole new snake!  Surely they were being “born again”.  This belief that the snakes lived forever still dies hard in some developing nations.  We now know this is just part of the natural growth process, and actually helps the animals repair scratches and scrapes they get along the way.  

The Native Americans had many legends and beliefs about wildlife, in one case they felt that dancing with live rattlesnakes would bring rain!   If the elders did a great job of dancing around and not getting bit by their dancing partners, the heavens would open with adequate rain to ensure a bountiful food harvest.  

The following are some of the more commonly held myths and legends and the reality associated with the misinformation.  Review these with your students they make great talking points.  

Myth #1 Toads cause warts.  

Reality #1 Toads do in fact posses a very powerful toxin that resides in the parotid gland (those two big bumps right behind the eyes of all toads).  When disturbed toads have the ability to secrete the toxin, a white milky substance, from the glands.  This substance can be fatal if swallowed, but it can also cause a skin irritation.  This skin irritation can be associated with small bumps lasting for several hours to a couple of days.  But like all skin irritations the problem will go away with time and a little clean water with soap.   

Myth #2 Snakes sting their prey with their tongues.  

Reality #2 All snakes do posses a forked tongue, this tongue is used very differently from our own.   No snake has the ability to sting anything!

The tongue is a soft forked organ that in fact helps the snake smell.  An organ located on the roof of the mouth, called the Jacobson’s organ after the person who discovered it, actually receives tiny particles of matter gathered by the snake with its sticky tongue.  Once the snake pulls the tongue back into it’s mouth the particles it has collected are deposited on the roof of the mouth and processed by the Jacobson’s organ.  A snake flicking it’s tongue is just curious, it is trying to discover the world around it!   

Myth #3  Snakes Drink Milk.  

Reality #3  This is a classic “Cause and Effect” myth.  All snakes are carnivores, with most eating rodents or birds.  When the southeast United States was settled in the late half of the 16th and first half of the 17th century we brought dairy cattle with us.  The cattle needed something to eat; luckily we had an abundant supply of grains. 

Rodents love grain, particularly during the harsh winters in the U.S. farmers would put their cattle in barns, the grains were usually stored their as well.  It did not take the enterprising snake community long to discover their banquet of fresh rodents served up by the farmers.   Since the farmers kept discovering snakes in the dairy barns they made the incorrect assumption that the snakes were drinking the cows milk.  Most snakes in fact posses no less than 40 sharp little teeth that point backwards, there is not a cow in the world that would stand for 40 little hypodermic needles poking it!   

Myth #4 Snakes Charm or Hypnotize their prey.  

Reality #4 Most snakes hunt by using stealth.  They move very slowly and deliberately around their environment looking for something to eat.  Often times this means moving very slowly, staring the whole time directly at the eyes of their prey.  This has lead to the disbelief that they prey animal is hypnotized. It is important to remember that the defense tactics of many small animals is to hold perfectly still, seeing a predator and it’s prey standing motionless and staring at each other must surely be hypnosis…wrong.   The snakes also rely heavily on camouflage coloration to help them accomplish this amazing feat!  

Myth #5 Snakes Chase People  

Reality #5 There is not a snake in the world that would willingly chase anyone who was not bothering it.  The fact is we are much bigger than snakes and as such they do not want to try and eat us!  Any animal may become startled when encountering people, if the person is standing between the animals burrow or safe place, the animal may appear to charge the person as they try desperately to get to the safety of home!   

Myth #6 You can tell the age of a rattlesnake by counting the rattles on the tail 

Reality #6 In reality about the only thing you can tell by counting the rattles on the snakes tail is how well your kindergarten teacher did in teaching you how to count! 

Snakes periodically shed their skin, when they do a new rattle (or button as they are called in the zoo world) is added to the end of the snakes tail.  A young snake may shed up to 8 times per year; this would obviously cause a real problem in trying to tell the age of the animal. The older the animal becomes the less likely they are to shed more than two or three times per year.  Additionally the animals buttons may become tangled in some thick underbrush and break off, sometimes completely off!   A rattlesnake with out a rattle is really quite a dangerous creature; you cannot hear them when they are trying to warn you.

Some rattlesnakes live to be over 15 years old, it is estimated that the average animal will shed up to 100 times in its lifetime.   

Myth #7 Turtles out grow their shells 

Reality #7 A turtles shell is actually made up of modified rib bones and is actually part of the animal.  The shell grows with the animals throughout it’s entire lifetime, turtles are one of the animals that never stop growing, so the larger the turtle the older The turtle has no ability to crawl out from it’s shell.  In rare instances injured animals are actually taken to veterinarians and repaired with automotive fiberglass to create a permanent cast.  This myth probably stems from the hermit crab, this cute little crustacean does not grow its own shell, it must find discarded shells and occupy them. 

Your class will have many hours of enjoyable conversations talking about these and many other myths & legends.  

ACTIVITY: The Smoky Mountains and surrounding regions have produced many legends that are specific to our area; can your students discover what some of these local legends are?  Maybe older family members can share tall-tales from the hills with the students.  If they discover any local legends have them tell you what they think the reality of the legend is.  

Please contact the educational department of RainForest Adventures for additional support material to help you prepare for your exploration to the RainForest! 

RainForest Adventures zoo, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge TN


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