Thursday, May 23, 2013

Our Awards Ceremony For The 2012 - 2013 Florida Keys Fairchild Challenge

Wow! What an end to The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort's inaugural year as a Satellite Partner of The Fairchild Challenge! We were hoping to get a good turnout of enthusiastic students, parents and teachers at the end-of-year awards ceremony, and we certainly did - the Murray Nelson Center was packed:

The Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center - a great venue here in Key Largo for our ceremony.

Our first awards went out to elementary school students. One of this year's Challenges was to make masks of endangered animal species out of plants and recycled materials. Students showed off their winning masks on stage for everyone to see:

I especially like the student in the roseate spoonbill mask on the far left.

Here is a close-up of our first place mask winners from each grade level division:

On the left is Angeline de Paula's Aruba burrowing owl (Pre-K - 1st), on the right is Alex Sebben's American bald eagle (2nd - 3rd), and in the center is Hunter Slate's leatherback turtle (4th - 5th).

Elementary school students were also recognized for the drawings they did for the "Plants In Peril" Challenge. Mia O'Steen is the artist behind the first place entry entitled "seashore ageratum:"

Jack Tripp, winner of the 2nd-3rd grade division of the endangered species poetry Challenge, treated the audience to a stellar performance of "The Sea Turtle Rock," his original melodic poem about protecting the sea turtle:

One brave dude!

The Challenge with the most participation was the School Garden Challenge. I know these kids had a blast working on the gardens at their schools - they were so proud giving us tours of them when we visited the schools to see them ourselves.

School garden Challenge winners.

On to the middle school...  Students painted banners of nature in their neighborhoods:

The slogan on the banner on the right reads: "Don't Be Mean, Keep It Clean! Keep The Keys Beautiful For Everyone!"
The slogan on the banner in the center reads: "Be A Tree Hugger, Not A Tree Cutter!"
And the banner on the left... shown below and was the first place banner, done by students at Treasure Village Montessori. As an FYI to those who don't know Key Largo, the human-like figure on the bottom-right is not someone drowning and/or trying to catch jellyfish, but rather the "Christ of the Abyss Statue," one of Key Largo's most popular dive destinations.

"A World Underneath The Waves - The Florida Keys"

Hallie Rutten reads a selection from her first place Historic Florida Challenge journals, which tell the story of a girl who lives in Key West but sails away one day to make a new life for herself on an abandoned outlying island:

After the students received their awards, teachers and administrators came to the stage to accept awards for the overall Challenge competition, which is based on point totals. Each Challenge is worth a certain number of points, so totals are determined by which Challenges are completed and judges' evaluations of submissions for these Challenges. The first place elementary and middle schools each received $500 to use towards environmental programs, while the second place schools received $250. These financial awards were made possible through the support of generous local community members. Below is a photo of teachers from the four winning schools:

Elementary School - 1st Place: Plantation Key School, 2nd Place: Ocean Studies Charter School
Middle School - 1st Place: Treasure Village Montessori, 2nd Place: Key Largo School

Finally, the overall winning school was recognized. This school scored the most points out of all elementary and middle schools involved and won, in addition to the recognition, the opportunity to work with world-renowned artist Xavier Cortada to bring one of his Participatory Eco-Art projects to the Keys!

And the winner is... the elementary school at Plantation Key School!

I think everyone here at The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort would say this first year of bringing The Fairchild Challenge to the Florida Keys has surpassed all our expectations. We certainly couldn't have done it without the hard work and support of our local teachers, students, school administrators, and community members. The awards ceremony definitely ended the year with a bang and we're looking forward to the 2013 - 2014 school year!

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director

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