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Local students build a rain forest

Tim Mutrie

Before venturing into the Aspen Middle School JASON Project classroom, parties are forewarned that they’re actually entering a rain forest.

The classroom, dense with hand-crafted trees, vines, bats, steam (the work of humidifiers) and the sounds of a rain forest (on tape), re-creates an Amazon rain forest in the South American nation of Brazil.

In this hand-crafted jungle, eight eighth-grade JASON Project participants teach their fellow students about the rain forest as part of the Kids Teaching Kids Program.

Yesterday, JASON Project students Nicki Boelens, Lindsay Landis and Nick Redmond presented their program to a seventh-grade science class. Before they’re done, the JASON Project students will have given their program to all third- through eighth-grade students in the Aspen School District, as well as some second-graders, according to Annie Runyan-Worley, JASON Project coordinator.

Their dynamic, hourlong presentation incorporates the use of props, games, lectures, videos, questions and answers – all in the name of furthering their peers’ knowledge and interest in the rain forest.

“Lots of the earth used to be covered by rain forest, but today, after the Ice Age, it only covers six percent,” explained Landis during the introduction.

Yesterday’s presenting trio went on to create an interactive RAINFOREST acronym, with each letter signifying a specific aspect of the forest’s vitality and importance. “R,” naturally, stands for “rain,” which falls in abundance on typical regions of the four-layered, 280-foot-high forest.

Tuesday’s presentation was interspersed with numerous rounds of “The Price is Right,” which incorporated rain-forest trivia with pricing games popularized by the show.

“How can buying nuts from the rain forest help protect it?” was the super-bonus question in one round. The answer: It helps support the peoples of the rain forest without cutting down more trees. Many other questions and answers with similar themes followed.

After lecturing for a spell on the importance of bats in the rain forest, and their undeserved bad reputation, Redmond led the class in a “Bat Rap.”

It goes something like this:

“Man I eat fruit, I don’t suck no blood/I mind my own business, but my name’s still mud,” Redmond rapped. “We aren’t blind, I know that to be/because without my eyes, I’d be hitting a tree.

“Pesticides kill bats, but the thing is, bats kill more insects than pesticides,” Redmond explained. “So why not just buy a bat?” Bats can eat up to 600 mosquitoes an hour, he pointed out.

After the presentation, students who wished to build their very own bat house were given step-by-step directions.


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