"This educational program is an electronic field trip to the two types of America's rain forests," said Sandy Frost, a member of the Tongass National Forest Partnership and public affairs staff and the project's agency coordinator.
"Students and others will get the chance to experience the tropical rain forest of the Caribbean National Forest in Puerto Rico and the temperate rain forest of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska."
Biologists, scientists and land managers will take students on a virtual tour of the forests and discuss their work, discoveries, and the people who live, play and work near these unique ecosystems.
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The project was designed in accordance with National Science Education Standards and will help teachers meet their classroom goals and objectives, Frost said.
Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole said it's important that the Forest Service take the lead in helping educate the youth of America about conservation and public lands.
"Conservation is rooted in the Forest Service," Cole said. "We are not only stewards of public lands but also educators. This project is a great way to inspire millions of students to embrace their public lands and to educate them about the unique management challenges of these lands."
The distance learning program will help teachers educate their students on a variety of topics including current research in tropical and temperate rain forests; basic components of rain forest ecosystems; the similarities and differences of tropical and temperate rain forests: and the human needs provided by rain forests.
Cole said the innovative conservation education project has taken more than two years of planning and would not have happened without strong partnerships and collaboration.
"The Forest Service has a long tradition of fulfilling its mission through partnerships," Cole said.
"This project is the result of the collaborative efforts of numerous government agencies and private organizations."
The lead private partner for the project is Prince William Network, an award-winning educational institution in Manassas, Va. As part of the Prince William County School District, it specializes in developing and presenting distance learning events covering performing arts, safety, teacher training and natural resource issues.
Teachers and students will be able to view and participate in "America's Rain Forest: A Distance Learning Adventure," by satellite, webcast or cable-public broadcasting station.