2013 Rainforest Connection Live

Student preparation materials: Background readings are linked to the topics listed.

Background podcasts at: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=prismrainforest

Partner: NJ EDge Video Portal

Video-Chat Lesson Planning Checklist

  • What theme or topic on the Rainforest Connection list will best suit a videoconference lesson?
  • When will it work for you to be connected? —check the schedule.
  • What steps do you need to take to get the technology in place?
  • What preparation will your students need in questioning skills? These are interactive sessions and students will get more out of the experience by developing questions to be asked during the connection.
  • What preparation will your students need in speaking skills? They must speak clearly and loudly.
  • What content would you like them to research?
  • Do you want to set up pre- and post-programs that bracket a video-chat from an exotic location?
  • Will you need to look into funding sources?

Video-Chat Preparation: Equipment Needed

Different locations and different sessions will use either a webcam or a Polycom. The best connections are usually between similar equipment. Here are two ways to join a videoconference:

  1. Webcam: You’ll need a simple webcam costing between $40 - $150 and either a USB speakerphone or a speaker and a microphone, such as a Karaoke microphone that connects with a computer (either Mac or PC will work) and a large monitor. The necessary software is a free download called Vidyo, using this link: http://msu.njedgevideoportal.net/flex.html?roomdirect.html&key=B3EXViKNZVIF.
    This link will also show how you will enter your videoconference. The built-in video camera and microphone/speaker on a Mac laptop will work quite well.
  2. Polycom videoconference unit: This type of equipment is fairly costly at $6000 - $10,000 for a unit. It comes with camera, speakerphone, and the capability to convert video signals for use directly from an internet line to a TV monitor. It provides better quality pictures than a webcam, and does not require special software.

Prepartaion tips for distance-learning by video

  1. Test all equipment in advance and be sure you are comfortable using it. We ask you to coordinate testing with us to ensure connectivity, visual and audio capabilities as well.
  2. Learn to use the microphone. The microphone will have to be muted (off) when your class is not participating in the discussion. If you do not turn off your microphone, then all the rest of us will hear even the small noises in your room or just the hum of the equipment.
  3. Please make sure the microphone is easily accessible to the students who will be asking questions, so they can reach it quickly when called on to contribute.
  4. Make sure the room is well lit and that the light is from above, not behind the students. We want to see you.
  5. Sessions last about 30 - 40 minutes, and the time will be set by appointment.
  6. Sessions can be private for one class or club, or shared by up to 3 classes in different locations, no more than a total of 50 students at a location.
  7. Rehearse the students with some prepared questions so that they will speak slowly and clearly and into the microphone, but not too close to the microphone either. Most students need some coaching so that they do not swallow the end of the question or speak too rapidly. The people in the forest in Panama or elsewhere will have lots of forest noises to contend with (like screeching parrots!) and no need very clear speaking from the students.
  8. Students who speak should have the camera on them, preferably close-up, so that we can tell who is talking.
  9. Preparing questions-- have the students read some of the recommended background readings and then ask them to brainstorm some things they would like to know about the topic for their date of participation (below). Pool a set of questions and guide the students in narrowing down to several good ones. Help students edit their questions for clarity. We might not get to all, but we will try. We will be glad to take spontaneous questions.
  10. The sessions will be structured so that we will do introductions at the beginning. We will want your group to identify your school's name, school district, state, teacher's name, and grade level. If the session will be shared with other groups, we will show all of the groups on a split screen.
  11. Question and answer periods will occur several times each session, as time permits. If the session is shared with other classes, your group will be given a place in the sequence of classes that will speak with the Rainforest Connection team. Be ready to start quickly when your turn comes up. Please also listen to previous discussion so those questions are not repeated.

Class Background

  • Show the students a map of the location that you will “visit.” Let them see where the country or state is located relative to home, and how far away it is located. For example, for Panama, show them where Panama is located and where the Panama Canal cuts through the isthmus. BarroColorado  Island is in a freshwater lake that provides water for the Canal locks. Lake Gatun is on most maps of Panama, but Barro Colorado  Island, the largest island in that lake is not often identified.
  • For young students it is important to ask them how far they think the location is from their school, what kind of transportation they would take to get there, and how long the trip might take (Panama, for example, is 4.5 hours flying time from Newark). Some discussion of climate and seasonal differences would be useful to them. Time in Panama in the winter is the same as in New Jersey.
  • The usual daytime temperature on Barro Colorado Island is about 76 - 84 degrees F all year round. It is Dry Season and there is little rain after Christmas.


The various sessions have different topics, so these readings are listed according to the themes. The two main sources are the website http://www.montclair.edu/csam/prism/rainforest-resources and the JASON Project curriculum guide with corresponding units on the JASON videotape, which we can lend to you on request. PRISM staff can advise on readings for other topics as well as these. Topic-specific readings are listed and linked on our topics webpage. For general reading be sure to see the RFC website for Rainforest Journals #11: Bungle In the Jungle: What Not to Do and Curriculum Materials #2: How to us the Rainforest Connection.

The Rainforest Connection Live! TOPICS

PRISM videoconference programs feature live conversations with scientists, researchers, naturalists, teachers, and students from locations near home and far away, such as Panama, Belize, various parts of the United  States, and Australia. PRISM works with remote eco-lodges and indigenous schools to bring wildlife programs to students. The videoconference hosts explain research, answer questions, and show video clips to illustrate the flora and fauna of these habitats. Classes ask questions and provide comparative information about the topics from their own local habitats. Sessions last 30 to 40 minutes to accommodate student interaction. Each session may be shared by up to 3 classes in different locations. Sessions are conducted in Spanish or bilingually by request.

Most topics can be modified for any grade level: consult with our staff to ensure a good fit for your class.

Sessions are preceded and followed by background information to tie the live discussions to the NJ State Standards, and to embed the videoconferences within a curricular unit. Video Podcasts are offered to participant classes to supplement the live. Language
Arts are an important part of the preparation of students for their discussions with scientists, and for continued email exchanges.

Our current travel calendar is:

February 19- March 1, 2013
Panama – tropical lowland forest

The current schedule for topics offered at this time are available on the Rainforest Connection Live! website


$150 per 30 to 40-minute session