Thursday, August 27, 2015

Inspiring Students to Discover Why Plants Matter

2015-2016 Teacher's Information Meeting Kick-off
We kicked off the Upper Keys Fairchild Challenge (UKFC) last Saturday with our annual Teacher’s Information Meeting. We are excited for this year’s Challenges as the themes of The Everglades for elementary school and The Voyages of Plants for middle & high school are interesting and relevant not only to the environment and ecology of South Florida and the Keys, but on a global scale, as well. A first for this year will be a teacher’s workshop and professional development points for teachers participating in a Challenge.

2014-2015 Award Ceremony
Last year we had over 1100 students and 62 teachers participate in our program, the highest number to date, and we expect to grow even more this year with additional participation. Last year also marked our first offering for high school Challenges, of which four were submitted by the winning high school. Hopefully we will have another high school jump on board this year for more competition. Competition or not, the students learn many important ecological principles while doing their Challenges. These include plant-animal interactions, plant life cycles, how to take environmental action to the community and state levels, critical thinking skills involving conservation techniques, and using art as a tool to convey environmental awareness, just to mention a few. Speaking of art, last year we provided a student art workshop for elementary school which we have expanded this year to accommodate middle and high school students.

Yummy Sugar Citrus Squares were submitted by Coral Shores High School for the Green Cuisine Challenge
Key Largo School students working hard on their school garden!

Follow the handmade mosaic stepping stones to Treasure Village Montessori School's garden

Environmental Action by Ocean Studies Charter School.
Where else can students participate in coral restoration?!
The Fairchild Challenge program is developed by Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden and as a satellite partner we use their framework but tailor it to the needs of our schools and the environment of the Florida Keys. We are able to compete with other satellite partners from around the world with a Global Challenge where students’ submissions are entered into an online forum to be judged against each other. This year’s Global Challenge is related to environmental change and how species are adapting to climate change through a comic strip storyline.
All is all, it’s shaping up to be another great school year in the Upper Keys!

The UKFC is supported by Kona Kai Resort and donations from private individuals, organizations and corporations. If you are interested in supporting our program, please click here:

Emily B. Magnaghi
Associate Director