WARREN, NJ - Dan Ticchio, science teacher at Warren Middle School, brought the rain forest into the classroom through the Rainforest Connection. Along with his colleague Kelly Brown, arrangements were made for a video conference to take place so that their students could experience learning beyond books and lecture.
In line with many of the Core Curriculum Content Standards and in preparation for this event, students studied animal adaptations and how that connects to natural selection. Ticchio provided hands-on lab activities and simulations as well.
Dr. Jacalyn Willis has been researching on Barro Colorado Island, located on an isthmus in the middle of Panama. At the beginning of her presentation, the students were in awe as she explained she is able to swim in the Atlantic Ocean in the morning and the Pacific Ocean in the afternoon.
Her goal was to speak about monkeys specific to the region and the importance and implications of adaptation. The four types of monkeys she addressed were the following: Spider monkeys, White-faced monkeys, howlers, and tamarins.
As the video conference was on the SmartBoard in Ticchio’s Science Lab, Willis presented with a split screen so she was addressing the class directly, with two-way sight, and the other part of the screen was linked to her computer allowing her to pull up photos and a slideshow to reply to the children's direct questions.
As Willis showed each species of monkey, students were actively engaged and eager to discuss adaptations, like the importance of the tail for balance, long fingers to grip, colors to camouflage, and how monkey size and tree variety impact their survival.
Students appreciated how they were talking with someone in real time from Panama. Although sitting in a classroom in Warren, NJ, they saw the colorful sights and heard the unique sounds of the rainforest, making students feel like they were transported there.
Through this opportunity, students learned about adaptations, natural selection, endangered species, flora and fauna, stereoscopic vision, and more. Special thanks to Dot Stradford, Project Information Assistant who handled the camera and production for the video conference from Panama, and to Patrick MacNamara who is a talented member of the Tech Support team supporting Warren Middle School.