In this lesson, student artists learn about animal defenses, with a particular emphasis on animals that live in the rainforest. Students then brainstorm  fictional animals that are ideally suited to live in the rainforest.

Students will be able to:
  • define ‘predator’ and ‘prey’.  

  • explain multiple ways prey have evolved to defend themselves. 

  • create one or more imaginary creatures that have one or more defense mechanisms.


Students will be working independently.

Have materials set up in a way that is easy to pass out, see, and select from.

*The teacher may want to work alongside the students and create their own puppet. 

*This will allow the educator to model steps for students as needed, which is particularly helpful when the class is putting their puppet together



  • Optional: Have examples of animals that live in the rainforest (books, images, etc.) (see teaching tip w/in the lesson). For example:
  • If not using the video introduction, make sure to have visual examples of animal defense mechanisms, specifically rainforest animals that use protective measures such as sharp teeth/claws, hide, use camouflage, or are poisonous. Have these on hand to use as examples during the discussion (see video summary). If using the video, this is unnecessary.  

Handouts & Photocopies:

Lesson 1



Project the inspiration image where students can see it. Give students a moment to study it silently, then begin a brief discussion with the phrase, “What can we find?”. Paraphrase what students say for the benefit of the class, being careful to remain neutral, then ask “What else can we find?”. Alternately, allow them to draw or write what they notice on a blank piece of paper or in a sketchbook.

  • Apes in the Orange Grove, Henri Rousseau, 1910

  • Henri Rousseau was a self-taught painter, and completely untrained in any established art techniques. He is best known for his naïve, or primitive, childlike jungle scenes.He spent most of his life in the profession of a customs officer, and he started painting seriously at the age of forty.  By the time he was 49 he retired from his job in order to paint full time. 

    Although he had never been to a jungle (he actually never left France), many of his paintings depicted oversized plants and wild animals lurking in the shadows. He made many trips to the botanical gardens, perused illustrated books, and observed closely studied taxidermied animals.

    Note on using the information above: As your students participate in a conversation around this artwork, it may occasionally be helpful to provide them with additional or contextual information. This information can and should be imparted at the teacher’s discretion.

The point of this discussion time is to have students learn and add onto each other’s thoughts. By remaining neutral and simply repeating what students say you allow students to do the heavy mental lifting and also create an environment where there is no wrong answer, fostering creativity and mental risk-taking.



Watch Video Lesson


-A Rainforest is a very tall , thick,  jungle that accumulates a lot of rain. Rainforests cover less than 2 percent of Earth’s total surface area, but are home to 50 percent of Earth’s plants and animals

-Predators—animals that eat other animals. 

-Prey-animals in danger of being eaten. 

-Animals in the rainforest have many ways of protecting themselves from predators. They may hide, or their fur, scale, or skin may be camouflaged so they blend in with their environment. They  may try to trick predators into thinking they are larger and more aggressive than they really are through visual tricks such as being able to fluff their feathers really large, or having markings on their wings that appear to be additional eyes.They may be poisonous and have bright warning colors on their fur, skin, or scales, or they may have defenses such as sharp teeth and claws. 

Students will brainstorm imaginary creatures. In later lessons, they will take one of the brainstormed animals and making it into a marionette puppet. 

Brainstormed creatures are imaginary, but:

1; They live in the rainforest,

  1. Have at least one defense mechanism. 

Check for understanding by asking, “Who was listening closely that can sum up what we are doing today?” Make sure that student artists can list all the steps and clarify anything that needs clarifying.

  • Can list different ways that animals can defend themselves, including the examples from the film (speed, hiding, camouflage, visual tricks, sharp teeth/horns/etc.) 
  • Know that their creatures are imaginary, but must live in the Rainforest and must have a way to defend themselves
  •  Know that they should make more than one creature

Teaching Tip:

Students may have a hard time coming up with a new creature. During the CFU portion of the lesson, the teacher may want to spend some time designing a ‘new’ creature with the students. 

  • Look at some books or resources to get examples of animals that live in the rainforest. 

  • Ask them to choose an animal and tell you what that creature’s defence mechanism is

  • Repeat

  • Ask them to come up with ways that you could combine the two creatures into a new creature (e.g., creature 1: butterfly, creature 2: cheetah, new creature could be a giant cat with cheetah spots that sprouts wings, using strength and speed to defend herself). 

  • If you feel comfortable, you can model how they would draw this creature on a brainstorm sheet, or invite a confident student to quickly do so (keep this for lesson 2)


FOCUS QUESTION: What features are you combining to create a creature ideally suited to survive in the rainforest?

At this point, students should be encouraged to make a lot of creatures and explore different ways that they can combine defense mechanisms. Encourage students to share the different ways that they are combining their creatures so that students are focused on combining features to make NEW animals rather than recreating ones that they already know about. 

Continue to narrate different defence mechanisms to give students additional ideas. This can be done by narrating the defense mechanisms students are using in their work, or thumbing through a book and narrating what you see (e.g., This butterfly has an pattern that looks like an eye on its wing, which fools predators into thinking it is larger than it is!) 

This should be a fun lesson for students, and the teacher should encourage them to experiment and share their experiments throughout the classes work-time 



Sharing should work as follows:

  • Student stands by their work. A teacher should hold it, or place it on an easel.
  • The student presents their work, answering What they made, How they made it, and Why they made the decisions that they did. When they are done they ask, “Any comments or questions?” and can take responses from the audience.
  • A note on responses: it is o.k. if an audience member questions or wants clarification from the artist. It is also o.k. if an audience member makes suggestions. But it must be done in a kind, thoughtful, and respectful way.
  • Always end the conversation by asking the class to give the artist a compliment.

Depending on the teacher’s style of classroom management, it might be helpful to only choose and train a few kids to clean. The rest of the class can be busy with the presentation. Make sure to train these helpers well in advance so that you aren’t left with a messy room.

Clean-up times will vary with materials; get to know your class and allow 5-10 minutes depending on how efficient they are and whether or not the material was messy.


  • Student artists may give their animals imaginary defense mechanisms (e.g., superpowers). As they are imaginary animals, this is fine, but they must include at least one defense mechanism that can be found in real animals. 
  • If a student is having a hard time coming up with an imaginary creature, have books or images available and have them choose (this be random) two animals, walk them through identifying defense mechanisms AND characteristics, and have them draw that. The hope is that once they get started they will be inspired.


Students should brainstorm creatures until the end of class. 

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