Rainforest Simulation and Learning Center Opens Its Doors

Rainforest Simulation and Learning Center Opens Its Doors
Andy Morales, left, and Mark Acuna of the Tongva Indian Tribe, burn sage as part of a cleansing ritual during the grand opening of BioTrek, a collection of three ecological and biological learning centers at Cal Poly Pomona.
Third graders from Anna Borba Elementary School in Chino check out a Giant Walking Stick insect during the grand opening of BioTrek.
Visitors take a tour of the Biotrek Rainforest Learing Center.

University officials, invited dignitaries and area school children celebrated on Oct. 1 an enthusiastic grand opening of BioTrek, a comprehensive rainforest simulation and learning center. The on-campus project is a joint venture between Cal Poly Pomona and Rain Bird Corp., the leading manufacturer of irrigation equipment.

Five years in the making, the massive research and education facility consists of the Rain Bird Rainforest Learning Center, the Rain Bird Ethnobotany Learning Center and the Rain Bird Aquatic Biology Learning Center. All three provide an unparalleled ?hands-on? learning experience for students to explore the complexities and diversity of a tropical rainforest as well as terrestrial and aquatic habitats of California and the tropics. The rain forest simulation alone covers 2,500 square feet with an additional 2,000 square feet of facilities attached. And the Rain Bird Ethnobotany Learning Center takes up an additional 20,000 square feet.

The grand opening featured remarks by officials from Cal Poly Pomona, including President Bob H. Suzuki, and Rain Bird, as well as tours of the facility. Those in attendance enjoyed a special appearance from Tongva Native American tribal members who recited a dedication speech in the native language and performed a ceremonial dance in their traditional dress.

As the only facility of its kind located on a university campus, BioTrek is expected to provide more than 10,000 students and visitors per year with the opportunity to learn the importance of environmental conservation and how the future is linked to present conservation efforts through an integrated, interactive learning and research process.

?BioTrek is a new approach to helping people learn about the ecological processes and cultural importance of rainforests and other habitats,? said Don Straney, dean of the College of Science. ?It helps align the meaning of abstract ideas and scientific concepts. Visitors will experience first-hand the interrelationships among plants, animals, microbes and the physical environment.?

Initially situated in a science department prep room, BioTrek expanded into its multi-center incarnation due in large part to Rain Bird Corp.?s support.

?BioTrek is a natural extension of Rain Bird?s commitment to ?The Intelligent Use of Water,?? said Art Ludwick, senior vice president of Rain Bird Corp. ?Rain Bird is deeply concerned about the environment and has always promoted stewardship of Earth?s resources, of which water is among the most precious.?

BioTrek is not the first time that Rain Bird has partnered with Cal Poly Pomona to create a program of true significance and universal application. Previously, the two entities teamed up to develop a K-12 rainforest teaching curriculum, designed to be an educational tool for all educators, students and parents and currently available at www.rainbird.com.