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Lights, camera action! When kids create their own nature show, wild things can happen.


Night has fallen the Costa Rican rain forest, but 15-year-old Ryan Jacobus still has a long way to hike. He and his family lug their gear up the muddy trail. Sweat pours down Ryan's neck as he breathes the heavy, humid air. When he reaches the field station, he'll pull a mosquito net over his bunk and try to get some sleep--but not for long. At four in the morning, he'll wake up for another hike to an observation point.

Why is this American teen trekking through a Central American jungle at night? He's getting ready to shoot the next episode of Super Natural Adventures, a show he and his family create for the Web to get kids involved with nature. This time, he's hoping to film a few of the 200 species of migratory birds that stop in Costa Rica on their annual flight from distant lands. In past episodes, he's gotten up close with other amazing animals, plants, and people in this small but one-of-a-kind country.


Follow along as Ryan uncovers the secrets of the rain forest.


Ryan wasn't always a film-shooting jungle adventurer. He lived in Wisconsin until he was 10. That's when he, his parents, and his two younger brothers voted unanimously to more to Costa Rica--one of the world's areas of greatest biodiversity (see Nuts & Bolts, p. 11). Costa Rica forms a land bridge between North America and South America, so animals and plants from both continents found a home there. The country's wide variety of habitats--including forests, mountains, coasts, and swamps--supports 500,000 species. Ryan says, "If you were to come to visit me in Costa Rica, you might be surprised to see monkeys in the trees around our house, or giant iguanas walking around, or parrots flying overhead."


Before they moved, the brothers were already hooked on nature shows featuring stars like Jeff Corwin, Steve Irwin, and the Kratt brothers. "After watching those shows, we'd go outside and pretend we were those guys, looking for nature," Ryan says. "Then we moved to Costa Rica, and we sort of really were those guys! We decided we could do our own show and inspire other kids to get outside and explore." The boys write the scripts and host the show, while their dad handles the camera and their mom directs and produces.


The Jacobus brothers are quick to hop on an idea for an episode--even when that means filming a frog hunt at night in a remote section of rain forest. "It was pouring rain, we were soaking wet, and the mud was so deep it was sucking the boots off our feet," Ryan recalls. Frog calls filled the air as light from his headlamp reflected off tiny eyes. The boys gently grabbed the frogs, identified the species, then released them. In that same episode, Ryan tried a local snack--live termites. "When you put it in your mouth, it kind of crawls around and tries to bite your tongue," he says, adding that the crunchy bug--one of more than 300,000 known insect species in Costa Rica--tasted like a pine nut with a minty flavor.

In another nighttime segment, Ryan set out to bust myths about bats. He helped scientists net, weigh, and identify a few of Costa Ricas 110 bat species. Then the flying mammals swooped off to continue their job of producing trees by eating fruit and dropping the seeds. "People are scared of [bats] and kill them out of fear," he says. "I wanted to educate people about bats so they could understand that not only are bats not scary, they're superimportant to the environment."


Ryan's 13-year-old brother, Michael, adds, "Through our show we give [people] an experience, and I think [we] make them cave about nature because of that experience. If they cave about nature, people will want to cave for it."


Another reason to cave about nature: Roughly 25 percent of prescription medications initially were derived from plants, though most of those are now made with human-made chemicals that mimic the plants' compounds. When Ryan interviewed a botanist who is also a medicine man, he learned how the Bri Bri, one of Costa Rica's indigenous peoples, use plants to cure illnesses. With more than 10,000 known plant species in Costa Rica and others being identified every year, who knows how many yet-to-be-discovered cures the rain forest holds?

Because nature doesn't follow a script, the boys are used to surprises--such as the time baby howler monkeys got tangled in their mom's hair at a monkey orphanage. A turtle segment required several trips to the beach in the middle of the night because, as Ryan's 11-year-old brother, Will, points out, "turtles don't exactly show up when you tell them to!" And Ryan made his four-in-the-morning trek to the observation point every day for a week before the migratory birds arrived.

Upcoming episodes of Super Natural Adventures include waterfall rappelling and a look at some unusual alternative energy sources. But the Jacobus brothers don't want you to only watch their show--they also want to see yours. They ate inviting you and classroom groups to create nature videos for sharing on their Super Natural Adventures Web site ( Ryan's mom, Maggie, says, "We would love to see and learn about what's in their backyards."

BATMAN: Ryan spent six weeks researching bats, like this Jamaican fruit bat, with scientists at Tirimbina Rainforest Center.

TEENY CRITTER: With its blue legs, this frog looks like it is wearing jeans, so its common name is the blue jean poison dart frog.

SLITHERY FIND: Snakes are common in Costa Rica.

nuts & bolts


Tropical rain forests like those found in Costa Rica receive an annual rainfall of at least 250 centimeters (100 inches). These woodlands are located along the equator in portions of Central America and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippine Islands, with those of the Amazon basin covering the largest area. Rain forests are rich in biodiversity. This means they have a large number of different species in a given area. Together, Earth's tropical rain forests contain an estimated one hall to two thirds of all plant and animal species.


it's your choice

1. The Jacobus brothers' show, Super Natural Adventures, airs --.

(A) on HBO

(B) In theaters

(C) on the Web

(D) right after Kratts' Creatures

2. A tropical rain forest gets at least 250 -- of rain per year.

(A) millimeters

(B) centimeters

(C) inches

(D) feet

3. What is the slowest-moving mammal on Earth?

(A) sloth

(B) Jamaican fruit bat

(C) anteater

(D) pig


1. c 2, b 3. a



EARTH: Rain Forests

Lights, Camera, Action!


* What is a rain forest? Where ate tropical rain forests located?

* What is biodiversity? Why is it important?

* Do you watch nature shows starring people like Jeff Corwin and the Kratt brothers? Would you enjoy hosting your own nature show? Why or why not?


* Approximately 25 percent of the land area in Costa Rica is a protected area or national park. That's the largest percentage of protected area for any country in the world.

* Costa Rica has 112 volcanic formations--but only seven of the volcanoes are currently active.

* The Jacobus brothers have made more than 25 videos about Costa Rica since they first started Super Natural Adventures in 2006.


* Do you think that nature shows like Super Natural Adventures help raise awareness and interest in the environment and environmental issues? What do you think ate the best methods to educate the public about the planet, biodiversity, and conservation?


LANGUAGE ARTS/COMPUTERS: What do you think is the most exciting thing about your local environment? Pick a natural place, animal, or something else unique about your hometown and write a script for an episode of Super Natural Adventures featuring you as guest host! Be sure to describe the scenes, video clips, photographs, and music ideas in addition to your dialog. Take it further by shooting your episode and sharing it with Jacobus brothers at


You can access these Web finks at

* The Jacobus brothers have shot parts of their videos at the Tirimbina Rainforest Center. Learn more about the rain forest and what the center does at The brothers have also taken tours with guides at Aventuras Sarapiqui adventure tour company, which you can visit here:

* Find out more about Costa Rica's biodiversity at the National Biodiversity Institute's Web site:

* Want to know all about the world's rain forests? Check out Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia's entry here:

PAGE (8) Lights, Camera, Action!

DIRECTIONS: After reading the article about the Jacobus brothers and their Web show, fill in the blanks to complete the summary paragraph below.

The Jacobus family lives in Costa Rica, a country in -- -- known for having a wide variety of habitats and great biodiversity. The family writes, produces, and hosts their own Web show called -- -- --. The Jacobus brothers filmed some of the 200 species of -- birds that stop in Costa Rica on their annual flight from distant lands. Ryan Jacobus even interviewed a botanist who is also a medicine man from the -- -- tribe, one of the --, or native, peoples of Costa Rica. Ryan learned that --percent of all prescription medications originally came from plants and more than -- known plant species grow in Costa Rica, with more being identified every year.

Central America; Super Natural Adventures; migratory; Bri Bri, indigenous; 25; 10,000
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Title Annotation:EARTH: RAIN FORESTS
Author:Adams, Jacqueline
Publication:Science World
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 19, 2010
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