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Coralville Rainforest Project

Liz Mathis

March 12, 2005

[Note: This script is copyright by KCRG-TV and is reproduced here as a non-commercial, educational "fair use" only. Any other use may require the approval of KCRG-TV. As of March 14, 2005, it was available from the KCRG-TV Web site as]

(Coralville – KCRG) -- Education and an indoor rainforest. There's been a lot of talk about why Iowa needs an indoor rainforest, when it will be built in Coralville and if it will attract enough tourists to spur economic development and keep itself afloat. But science teachers are hoping the rainforest becomes a classroom tool and so is the man who is leading the charge.

Kindergarten students at Longfellow Elementary in Iowa City are learning about science by cutting, and gluing and thinking. Their teacher Laura Nicklaus says it's a hands-on approach. “They talk about that with each other and go home and share that too."

“Iowa needs to do some things like this that are different - that are imaginative." Ted Stilwill is the former director of Iowa’s Department of Education. Now he's director of the education design team for the rainforest - which will be built on a site in Coralville. Stilwill says the state has addressed literacy -  now it's on to science. “Young people need to deal with more complex types of learning advanced math and science and need to think about things in a more disciplined way that science provides."

Stilwill and 23 others on an education design team are working on three distinct areas of learning: for visitors, students and science teachers. They want it to mimic the Eden Project - a similar facility that KCRG-TV9 visited in Cornwall, England last year.

Iowa students will take customized field trips for different ages and interactive links via the internet will join schools with the rainforest. Teachers say a hands-on approach is proven. And the indoor rainforest has plans to offer incentives and learning academies for teachers.

In the far future, they hope to build a site school to increase what Stilwill says is Iowa’s low rate turning out scientists. The team also wants a "science literacy initiative" that will show experienced educators new ways to teach science.

The $180 million rainforest is slated for completion by 2008.