What do you do if you are a 3rd grader who desperately wants to visit a rainforest?


What do you do if you are a 3rd grader who desperately wants to visit a rainforest?

If you are anything like tenacious Jay Blaine, you pester your mother for FOUR years until she makes it happen.  Now that is persistence! As a middle schooler, Jay finally made it to the rainforest as a participant in one of our very first Amazon Rainforest Workshops, way back in 1992. 

What do you do if you are a 3rd grader who desperately wants to visit a rainforest?  Jay Blaine with sloth, as a middle schooler

Jay as a middle schooler in facepaint with sloth
Flash forward twenty years, and we are delighted to report that we serendipitously reconnected with Jay – now an artist and activist working in California. Jay recently launched a wonderful new Facebook page called Rainforest Eye. It is loaded with fantastic and inspiring rainforest images from around the world. Jay is the first to acknowledge that his page wouldn’t be possible without the photographers. Unlike many other Facebook “picture” pages, Jay is committed to celebrating the photographers behind the images – giving them the credit and recognition they justly deserve. Many of the photographers he features, like Kurt Orion G (South East Asia), Steve Parish (Australia), and Tracy Kidston (Amazon) are amazing naturalists who enhance their photos with fascinating natural history notes. As Rainforest Eye continues to grow, Jay hopes his efforts will provide his fellow artists with mass exposure – helping to push their careers to the next level, while at the same time building rainforest awareness and appreciation through their beautiful and captivating images.

So, what sparked Jay’s fascination with rainforests? It all began with his 3rd grade teacher and a unit on rainforests. Jay was captivated by the images of camouflaged katydids, strangling figs, and howling monkeys. As he and his classmates looked at all the animals that lived in the various layers of the rainforest, his mind reeled. How could one place have so much life? His third grade mind locked on a target – one way or another he would get to the rainforest!

What do you do if you are a 3rd grader who desperately wants to visit a rainforest? Jay Blaine's Mom in the rainforest

Jay's Mom in the rainforest
Jay’s mom, Diane, tried to appease him with a glow-in-the-dark infographic of the rainforest, but that just wasn’t going to cut it. Over the next four years, they looked into a variety of rainforest experiences until Diane, a librarian, determined that the Amazon Rainforest Workshop offered the most educational learning opportunity for her son. And off they went – down the Amazon in search of pink river dolphins, up in the canopy on one of the world’s first canopy walkways, and into the night on the prowl for snakes and tarantulas. Jay? Have you thanked your mom lately?

As an adult, Jay is combining his passions for art, the environment, and outreach. His Rainforest Eye Facebook page is just the beginning. His long term goal is to create “Artists for the Environment” a non-profit that brings together artists from around the world in an effort to promote awareness about environmental issues.

What do you do if you are a 3rd grader who desperately wants to visit a rainforest?  Jay Blaine, Rainforest Eye

Thank you Jay for the work you do and for sharing your story. And a big THANK YOU to all the teachers out there who continue to spark the imaginations of their students by sharing the wonders of the rainforest in your classrooms…your efforts to raise awareness and appreciation can have amazing results.


You can join us in the Amazon – as an educator on a PD program or as a teacher leader with your students! Visit www.amazonworkshops.com for more info!


Christa Dillabaugh is our Education and the Rainforest Editor.  A former middle school and high school science educator, she coordinates experiential field programs for educators and students in the rainforests of Central and South America.  She currently serves as education director for Amazon Rainforest Workshops and loves traipsing through rainforest mud in search of teachable moments!  You can read her Amazon field notes at http://amazonworkshops.wordpress.com/