Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Plant Champions Olympic Wreath Competition

Back in October, I introduced you all to the Plant Champions Olympic Wreath Competition that The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort has been working to bring to students down here in the Florida Keys in collaboration with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and BGCI.  I left you hanging with the knowledge that I would be introducing the Competition to classes sometime soon.  I can proudly report today that I have completed the introductions and have come back alive against all odds with tales to tell and pictures to share.

I didn't really know what to expect going into the introductions.  I soon found out, however, that the students were surprisingly attentive, receptive and even enthusiastic about what I had to say. Many students raised their hands to participate whenever I posed a question and gave me very little trouble.  I say "very little" because there seems to always be a student interested in finding opportunities to be funny during a presentation.  During one of my introductions, one such student made himself known.  I was giving examples of how plants are used and was talking about their use as perfume/cologne ingredients.  The student loudly interjected with "Wait, I thought perfumes and colognes were made of whale blubber."  I must have been on my game that day because I was able to return fire (good-naturedly and in the spirit of fun, of course) immediately with "There may be a few, and although I'm not going to judge you based on your choice to perfume yourself with whale fat, I'm interested to know how it's working for you."  I got quite a bit of laughs from the quick response, a bushel of street cred points and un-interrupted attention from the whole class for the rest of the presentation.

Classroom introduction to the Competition.

Helping the students identify their plants.

As you can see in the pictures above, many of the students brought in plant parts for me to help them identify or determine if they are native to the Keys.  It was a little challenging at times because some of the students had only brought in a single leaf or even part of a leaf.  Luckily, I was born with a right eye that has a built-in plant DNA analyzer wirelessly linked to the world's best plant name databases, enabling me to determine plant identity in only a few seconds, so it really wasn't an issue. After giving the introductions, the classes went ahead with the Competition and began assembling wreaths later on in the week.  I have some excellent pictures of the wreath-making and it is quite hard to choose only a few to share with you.  We will be putting together an Olympic Wreath Competition photo album on our Facebook page, which will have many more photos, at a later date - so keep an eye out for that.  In the meantime, here is a sample of pictures taken during the in-class wreath-making (photos by Patricia Joy of Key Largo School):

Students using a book to identify their plants.

Putting the wreath together.

The students all seemed to have a great time making the wreaths.

A wreath nearly complete.

Great stuff.  It's awesome to see such enthusiasm and fun while learning about our native plants and their importance to us as well as the greater natural environment, all of which is core to the mission of The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort.  Look forward to more on the Competition in the months to come!

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director

1 comment:

  1. One of the major goals of our Gardens is education - of our local students. It is great to see that within our first year we are making great strides with student education through the co-operation of some great Monroe County teachers and the guidance of BGCI and Fairchild. I'm sure Rick will be back with the Monroe County winners and then with a report on the BGCI winners in the months to come but, in the meantime, if you want more details see Rick's October blog. I look forward to our gardens finding even more ways to give back to our community in the years to come. Joe Harris, Executive Director