We all need to take care of the environment. But often it may feel overwhelming and you might feel at a loss on your individual capacity to make an impact. However, there are many ways you can stimulate change each and every day. While a single action may seem small, the ripple effect of our actions can leave a lasting impact. One of the most powerful ripple effects occurs through empowering and educating youth. Here at Amazon Aid, we work hard to share the significance of the Amazon Rainforest and the inescapable importance of its conservation and are creating interactive and engaging ways for caregivers to share this knowledge with kids.

Why does this matter?

The Amazon Rainforest is the largest tropical ecosystem on the planet and holds thirty percent of the world’s flora and fauna. Trees in the rainforest absorb the carbon dioxide that people exhale and produce the oxygen that we need to breathe. However, the Amazon Rainforest is being destroyed due to deforestation and destruction. When trees are burnt during deforestation, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, increasing global warming.

The Amazon Rainforest is not only one of the world’s most profound producers of oxygen, it is the ancestral home to one million Indigenous people. Indigenous people of the Amazon are a wonderful example for living in harmony with the natural environment. Deforestation does even more than harming the air that we breathe, it destroys homes and takes human lives.

People and plants were created to live harmoniously and are inextricably linked through breath. Despite the fact that it constantly takes care of us, we often neglect the environment and things like global warming and ozone depletion make it harder for both plants and people to breath. Raising awareness and stimulating change happens one step at a time. In the midst of summer it might be hard to get your kids off of their seats and into the heat, but we have developed some engaging ways to get kids outside and educate them about how they impact the environment. Today, we are starting by demonstrating the relationship between humans and nature through breath.

Start stimulating change by stepping outside with your kids.

Materials needed:
  1. Clear bowl or jar
  2. Water
  3. Leaf
  4. Sunshine

Pro tips:

  1. If age appropriate, have kids carry a journal and some colored pencils with them to draw and document this process
  2. The sun moves around throughout the day, make sure you place your bowl in a spot that you know will stay sunny or move it around as needed

Let’s Get Started

1. Engage

Pause for a moment and ask, “What do people need to survive?” You might get answers like food, water, shelter, candy, and hopefully air at some point.

Use this as a segway to ask, “How do humans breathe?” You can briefly explain this process through a quick breathing exercise.
 

2. Breathe

Find a comfortable seat. Ask your kids to gently rest their eyes and to simply notice their breath. After a few moments begin to direct their breath. Here are a few lines you can use to guide them through this process:
  1. Inhale, breathing through the nose fill your belly with air like a balloon || Exhale, lets the air out and imagine the balloon becoming flat again
  2. Inhale, fill your belly with air || Exhale, let the air trickle out of your body
  3. One more inhale, fill your belly balloon up as big as you can || Exhale, let it all out as you imagine the balloon spitting out air and shriveling up
Explain that when we inhale we are breathing in oxygen and when we exhale we are letting out carbon dioxide.

We hope that your kids will be a little bit more relaxed and that you have their focus after these beginning breaths and they serve as a wonderful opener how all living things are connected. All living things breathe, though it may happen in many different ways.
 

3. See

Ask, “How do you think leaves breathe?” This answer can be complex, and if your kids are older, you can certainly go more in depth, but here is an awesome activity to demonstrate the process.

Explore

Enjoy exploring your backyard or a new park with your kids to find a leaf. You may also want to collect a couple extra leaves, rocks, flowers, and anything else interesting to create some artwork with later!

Photograph by Holly Zajur

4. Fill a clear bowl with lukewarm water

Photograph by Holly Zajur

5. Place the leaf in water and place a small rock on to fully submerge the leaf in water and let it sit for an hour

  • Lay in and soak up the sun yourself! Always a great chance to look at the clouds and say what you see!
  • This is also a wonderful time to play with some of the other treasures you collected on your hike. You turn your found objects into stamps by dipping them in paints and pressing them onto a new surface or building a fairy house! There is lots of room to play here, get creative!

Photograph by Holly Zajur

6. Observe

We hope you had fun at playtime! Now let’s get back to your “breathing bowl”.Small bubbles should form on the leaf and around the edge of the bowl. Check the leaf to ask kids what they see!

7. Educate

Explain what just happened! (this part can get complex, depending on the age of kids you can go more or less in depth)

Ask kids what happens when they hold their breath under water and then let their breath out? Bubbles would appear and that is what they are seeing here.

Diagram and Photograph by Holly Zajur

  1. As the leaf soaks in sunlight, it is absorbing energy from the sun. The process of turning sunlight into energy is known as photosynthesis. To make space for this energy, the leaf needs to get rid of what it no longer needs. The process of getting rid of what the leaf no longer needs is called transpiration. As the leaf transpires, it the releases oxygen. As the leaf releases its extra oxygen while underwater, the oxygen is seen as bubbles in the water.
  2. There is a reciprocal relationship between people and plants! A plant’s leaves act like lungs. While people breath in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

You can also help immerse your kids in what life in the Amazon might be like through music! Check out “The Dry Season: Cricket and Dove” from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings to create compassion for this incredible environment.

Works Cited
“How Do Leaves Breathe? A Simple Science Experiment for Kids.” – Edventures with Kids. Web. 11 July 2016.
ParticleMen. “They Might Be Giants – Photosynthesis (official Video).” YouTube. YouTube, 25 Mar. 2010. Web. 11 July 2016.
“Rainforest Concern.” – Why Are Rainforests Important? Web. 11 July 2016.
“The Open Door Web Site : Biology : How Plants Breathe : The Differences in the Exchange of Gases between Plant Respiration and Photosynthesis.” The Open Door Web Site : Biology : How Plants Breathe : The Differences in the Exchange of Gases between Plant Respiration and Photosynthesis. Web. 11 July 2016.
“00.06.02: How Plants Help Us Breathe.” 00.06.02: How Plants Help Us Breathe. Web. 11 July 2016.