Juliette Green sets out the opportunities provided for rainforest studies in the English National Curriculum


  • Key Stage 1: Identify seasonal and daily weather patterns and the location of hot and cold areas of the world in relation to the Equator and Poles.
  • Key Stage 2: Identify the position and significance of latitude, longitude, Equator, Northern and Southern Hemispheres, the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Understand geographical similarities and differences through the study of human and physical geography of a region within North or South America. Physical geography: climate zones, biomes and vegetation belts, rivers. Human geography: types of settlement and land use, economic activity and trade links, the distribution of natural resources. Use maps and globes to locate countries and describe features.
  • Key Stage 3: Extend their locational knowledge and deepen their spatial awareness of the world’s countries using maps of the world, focusing on environmental regions (e.g. tropical rainforests and hot deserts). Understand the key processes in physical geography relating to weather and climate. Understand how human and physical processes interact to influence and change landscapes, environments and the climate; study how human activity relies on effective functioning of natural systems.

Key Stages 1 & 2 Science

  • Year 2: Identify that most things live in habitats to which they are suited. Describe how habitats provide for the basic needs of plants and animals. Compare animals in familiar habitats with animals found in the rainforest. Find out and describe how plants need water, light and a suitable temperature to grow and stay healthy.
  • Year 3: Explore the requirements of plants for life and growth (air, light, water, nutrients from soil, room to grow) and how they vary from plant to plant.
  • Year 4: Recognise that environments can change and that this can pose dangers to living things. Explore examples of human impact (both positive and negative) on environments, for example the negative effects of population and development, or deforestation.
  • Year 6: Identify how animals and plants are adapted to suit their environment in different ways and that adaptation can lead to evolution. Research unfamiliar animals and plants from a broad range of other habitats and decide where they belong in the classification system.

Design and Technology

  • Key Stage 1: Understand where food comes from.
  • Key Stage 2: Understand seasonality, and know where and how a variety of ingredients are grown, reared, caught and processed.
  • Key Stage 3: Understand the source, seasonality and characteristics of a broad range of foods.

English (speaking and listening)

  • Key Stages 1 & 2: Listening and responding appropriately to their adults and peers; asking relevant questions to extend their understanding and knowledge; developing understanding through speculating, hypothesizing, imagining and exploring ideas.
  • Key Stage 3: Using Standard English confidently in a range of formal and informal contexts; giving short speeches and presentations, expressing their own ideas.

Key Stage 3 Biology

  • Plants making carbohydrates in their leaves by photosynthesis and gaining mineral nutrients and water from the soil via their roots. The dependence of almost all life on Earth on the ability of photosynthetic organisms, such as plants and algae, to use sunlight in photosynthesis to build organic molecules that are an essential energy store and to maintain levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The adaptations of leaves for photosynthesis.
  • Interdependence of organisms in an ecosystem. Variation between species and between individuals within a species means some organisms compete more successfully, which can drive natural selection. Changes in the environment may leave individuals within a species, and some entire species, less well adapted to compete successfully and reproduce, which in turn may lead to extinction.


This article was first published in NAEE’s journal, Environmental Education (Vol. 110).  To read more articles like this, you can join the Association and receive three journals a year.

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