Lesson Plan

Temperate Rainforest Ecology

a black bear partially screened by brush
NPS Photo
Grade Level:
Tenth Grade-Twelfth Grade
Biodiversity, Biology: Plants, Climate, Ecology
2 to 3 sessions, 60 minutes each
National/State Standards:
National Standards: Science C 4, 5, 6, F 5, 6


Students will review the concept of ecosystems and thoroughly examine the members of their local ecosystem. By concentrating on a specific relationship within the rainforest ecosystem, students will better understand the entire community.


Students will be aware of the important connections between living and non-living parts of the ecosystem. They will understand how seemingly distant events (glacial melt, ocean temperature, industrial development) can impact the local forest.


Read the Succession and Temperate Rainforest Ecology sections of this manual.


You will need at least one copy of the glacial succession reading and the temperate rainforest ecology reading.

You may want a full copy of "Forging Connections - An Educational Resource For Kenai Fjords National Park" 


One to three days ahead of the classroom activity have students read the sections on Succession and Temperate Rainforest Ecology in this manual and find two online resources that discuss temperate rainforests. Provide them with the vocabulary words to define and help bolster their reading.

During the classroom activity, allow students to keep their vocabulary list and any resources they’ve printed with them for use during classroom discussion.

Ask a student to explain the difference between a forest and a rainforest. Follow this with asking a student to explain the difference between a tropical and a temperate rainforest.

Ask if any students can explain what differences there might be between a temperate rainforest in Alaska and in Washington (snow down to sea level, tree species, seasonality).

Review the vocabulary words as a class.

Classroom Discussion
Begin with a refresher introduction on the defi nition of an ecosystem: All of the biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) elements and how they interact together in a given area (the person doing the research defi nes the area).

Ask the class to think about the reading they’ve done and begin to name the biotic and abiotic components of the temperate rainforest. Have one student write the components on the board in a random order with space between words as other students come up with additional components. Try to encourage the class to come up with 15-20 items. Examples: trees, lichen, soil, rivers, bears, insects, salmon, fungus, rotting wood, blueberries, humans, sun, rocks, moss, moose, birds, nutrients.

When enough components are posted, ask if someone can draw a line from one component to another and define the relationship between the two by writing it on the line. Have 2-3 students do an example each. Explain that we are creating a “Web of Connectivity.”

Hand out the activity sheet that explains the Rainforest Web of Connectivity activity.

Classroom Discussion
Have students discuss the connections they made on the Rainforest Web of Connectivity homework assignment. Try to encourage lots of classroom participation so different ways of viewing the ecosystem are talked through. Hand out the second activity “Advocating for the Rainforest.” Ask students to let you know what pair they will be doing their poster about such that multiple aspects of the temperate rainforest community are represented.

The 2 homework assignments should provide for assessment of students. Check that these points are made in the student’s work:

  • The web of relationships should have no less than 15-20 elements in it.
  • Student should be able to describe 10 or more relationships within these elements.
  • Student should be able to clearly define the relationship between the elements chosen.
  • A student with a grasp of the basic material will have no problem creating a poster to promote this relationship.

Additional Resources

Ancient Forests of the Pacific Northwest, Elliot A. Norse, Island Press, 1989


Canopy, Commensal, Conifer, Decomposer, Epiphyte, Fog Drip, Forest Floor, Lichen, Litterfall, Mutualistic, Nurse Log, Nutrient Cycling, Parasitic, Predatory, Understory.