Rainforest springs up at St. Mary’s School in Bryantown
20th annual event raises funds for environment
A rainforest has sprung up at St. Mary’s School in Bryantown, thanks to work from third grade students, parents, teachers and families.
The 20th annual Third Grade Rainforest is a school tradition, getting more elaborate each year. Vines and branches decorate the inside and outside of the school, and models of animals from the world’s rainforests, made by third graders, inhabit the halls of the school.
On Tuesday, third grade students gave groups of families and community members guided tours of the rainforest, explaining the various animals and plants and their importance to the world ecosystem and human health.
“Many of these plants and animals can only survive in the rainforest. If their homes are destroyed, they will go extinct,” said Ava Wehrs, 8, one of the third grade tour guides.
The idea of turning the school into a rainforest began almost 20 years ago as a science project in Peggy Garner’s third grade class to help students learn more about the importance of the world’s rainforests, said her husband, Daniel Garner.
Daniel said he became involved
in building an elaborate rainforest diorama, and the experience has grown ever since.
“At first we just did a couple bushes, some trees, and the kids would make animals, so it was very small,” he said. “But each year it just got bigger and bigger.”
A reception followed the tour, with dishes made by third grade families that incorporated ingredients from the rainforests.
The rainforest experience took almost a week to set up at the school, although students had been working for almost a month prior creating the animal models to inhabit the rainforest.
Daniel Garner said that each year, the parents of the third graders become involved in setting up the rainforest and in running the event and the reception following.
“We began [setting up] about a month ago, on a Saturday, and almost every third grade family provided a volunteer,” said Cindy Watson, parent of a third grader.
Garner said he takes a week off work to help set things up.
“But it really wouldn’t be possible without the help of all the parents,” he said.
Money raised from the event is donated to the nonprofit Rainforest Alliance to purchase land to protect the rainforests, Watson said.
Principal Sharon Caniglia said the annual rainforest event is a tremendous learning experience for the students.
“The children learn about raising money and giving back to the community, they learn about the rainforest, they learn about public speaking. They have a lot of fun making their animals, and learning about their animals,” Caniglia said. “It’s a wonderful learning experience.
One of the tour guides, Gabriella Beal, 9, said she hadn’t known that rainforests make up only 6 percent of the world’s land surface. Rainforests once covered more than twice that, according to an article by National Geographic.
Carleigh Watson, 9, said that rainforests provide many of the medicines we use today.
“We found out a lot of stuff,” Ava added. “We found out a lot about the animals that live in the rainforest. I didn’t really know a lot about them, but now I do.”
Rainforest tour guides Gabriella Beal, Ava Wehrs and Carleigh Watson discuss wildlife of the rainforest canopy during St. Mary’s School of Bryantown’s 20th Annual Third Grade Rainforest tour Tuesday.
Third grade tour guides Gabriella Beal, Ava Wehrs and Carleigh Watson lead a tour of rainforest features and wildlife during St. Mary’s School of Bryantown’s 20th Annual Third Grade Rainforest tour Tuesday.