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Tropical Ecology Institute


Most Beneficial Animal of the Rain Forest

Grade Level: 3-5

Author: Steve Houser

N.C. Standard Course of Study Goal:

Grade 4, Competency Goal 1: The learner will build an understanding of animal growth and adaptation.

1.01 - Relate structural characteristics and behavior of a variety of animals to the environment in which they are typically found.

1.02 - Determine animal behaviors and body structures that have specific growth and survival functions in a particular habitat.


  • Students will learn that even the most unassuming animals in the Belizean rainforest play a vital role in its well-being
  • Students will understand that animals have a variety of adaptations to aid them in survival
  • Students will understand that the organisms of the rain forest form a life sustaining web that affects the well-being of each other


One-two class periods


Pencil, paper; if possible, Internet access to allow students to pursue activity in greater depth


On the board, or chart paper, list many of the organisms found in the Belizean rain forest. In this list include several examples of producers, consumers, and decomposers. In earlier lessons in Belize Institute, students have already been exposed to descriptions of these animals, their behaviors, diets, and ways of survival.

Place students in to groups of four. Explain that students have learned that the rain forest habitat is similar to our habitat, and is also quite different. Ask students to review some of the ways, offering similarities and differences. Students have also learned about many of the animals that live there. On the board are some of them. Look over the many different organisms that are listed. Ask students if there are any organisms that they are not familiar with or wonder about?

Ask students this simple, yet hard-to-answer, question: What animal in the Belizean rain forest do you believe is the most beneficial one there? Tell students not to answer immediately. Have them think about what the needs of the rain forest are. Think about the animals, and what their adaptations are. Have each student write down their answer and explain why they chose this animal. Include the animal’s adaptations and any other reasons why you would choose that animal.

Next, have students share their with their group. (Allow for sharing and discussion time.)

Then, ask students to decide as a group which one of the four animals selected by their group is most beneficial to the Belizean rain forest. Each group must come to an agreement as to which animal it is, and should have a reason for its choice. (Allow time for discussion, debate, and decision. If Internet access is available, allow groups to go online to seek the answer.) Ask each group to present its findings, including reasons for their decision, and to present their results in a way to convince others that their animal is the most important.

Finally, it is time as a class to decide on the most beneficial animal of the Belizean rain forest. Ask students to offer any other thoughts or ideas on making this decision, and to reiterate the reason they chose this animal. Students vote and a class consensus is reached.


The rain forest is made up of organisms that are connected to one another in ways that allow them to thrive. Consumers, producers, and decomposers all have an important role in the health of a rain forest. It would be very hard to single out one animal and say it was the most important.

Students' Processing:

Have each student write down their thoughts about doing this activity. How did they reach their own decision, and how did their group reach a decision? Do they agree with the class vote? What are their thoughts about the most beneficial animal now?


  • Teacher observation
  • Students’ completed writings


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