Making Rainforest Connections To Classrooms Around The World

Jacalyn Giacalone Willis, founding director of Professional Resources in Science and Mathematics (PRISM), the College of Science and Mathematics’ K-12 education center, is an international innovator – and media star – featured in programs produced by the likes of Animal Planet and the Smithsonian Channel.

Jacalyn and Greg Willis
Jacalyn and Greg Willis

Since 2003, using interactive videoconferencing, PRISM’s Rainforest Connection project has linked researchers and educators at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama with students, teachers and classrooms everywhere from New Jersey to Kenya. This past winter, 875 students from 17 schools in 11 New Jersey school districts and one Michigan district also made the connection.

Willis visits Panama each February to conduct Rainforest Connection webcasts and an annual census of endangered wildlife on Barro Colorado Island with her husband, Greg. “These long-term studies help guide conservation decisions,” she says.

In April, Mysteries of the Rainforest, a Smithsonian Channel documentary highlighting the couple’s Barro Colorado census was screened at the International Film Festival in Panama.