Current News

This page is dedicated to news concerning The Fairchild Challenge, including information about visiting educators, new staff joining our team, field/site trips, awards and grants, attendance to professional meetings, publications and other exciting developments happening here at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

June 2014

Summer is here, and so are young adults. Fairchild is hosting eight botany interns, who will be helping Emily Warschefsky in the DNA Lab and Jay Arce in the Orchid Lab for four weeks. Middle school campers are getting inspired by plants and their pollinators during a two week KoolScience camp. School may be out, but summer with The Fairchild Challenge is still geared towards Environmental Education.



May 2014

May was a celebratory month. The Fairchild Challenge concluded with elementary School Garden/Habitat Restoration booklet submissions, the annual Teachers’ Celebration Brunch, and three nights of awards ceremonies.

Students from W. R. Thomas and Young Women’s Preparatory Academy presented music and writing at the middle school awards ceremony, and a jazzy ensemble from Academy of Arts and Minds performed at the high school awards ceremony. This year, the Lewis Vaughn Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Nicolas Rivers of Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High and Catalina Avila of Miami Northwestern Senior High.

Thanks to all the participating schools for another great year! We hope to see you at Fairchild for the Tropical Botany Workshop this summer.


 April 2014

April was filled with choices. Elementary students chose to take action to raise environmental awareness and conservation in their homes, schools and communities. Middle and high school students chose ingredients for the Green Cuisine vegetarian dishes, which were publicly presented at Fairchild’s Spring Garden Festival on April 12th. The Fairchild Challenge held Viewer’s Choice voting for Gardens and Green Spaces videos, and panelists reviewed top-scoring high school conservation plan presentations.



The Fairchild Challenge Partner Summit 2014

In the end of March, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden hosted a three-day summit for national and international partners who have implemented The Fairchild Challenge at their institution. Eighteen representatives from botanical gardens and environmental organizations joined to discuss joined activities and improvements. The workshop was mainly funded by a grant Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden received from the Institute for Museums and Libraries Services to train three more sites to implement The Fairchild Challenge as an environmental outreach program.



March 2014

The Fairchild Challenge held its semi-annual Environmental Immersion Day on March 11th. More than two hundred students,   from 26 schools joined scientists, biologists and field biologists from UM, MDC and FIU to learn and participate in activities important to their research.



February 2014

The Fairchild Challenge Environmental Debates on February 1st attracted 21 schools to debate conservation issues. Since the beginning of The Fairchild Challenge in 2002 - 2003, the Environmental Debates have been one of the key Challenges for high school students who wish to practice their debating skills in front a panel of distinguished judges. Like in previous years, this challenge was supported by members of the University of Miami’s debate team.

Wilfred Navarro of Archbishop Coleman Carroll, Clifton Eaton of Miami Norland, Karl Marvil of Ronald Reagan/Doral and Gabriel Caceres of TERRA Environmental Research Institute went home with Student Choice Awards for their exceptional debating skills.



January 2014

On January 11th, middle school students helped Fairchild staff restore a pine rockland at Ad Barnes Park. The workday was a chance for students to gain community service hours for helping with an environmental cause.




December 2013

Approximately fifty high school students and educators participated in the December 7th Debate Workshop, a training tool for future participants of The Fairchild Challenge Environmental Debates. Led by the University of Miami Debate Team, the workshop familiarized students with all aspects of Congressional Debate: rules and procedures, effective topic research, speech construction techniques, Robert’s rules of order, and presiding officer protocol.

Well over three hundred students, families and educators came to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden on Saturday, December 14th for the Parade of Incredible Insects, an event that gave elementary students a chance to show off their hand-made masks. Twenty-eight schools were represented. Seventy students chose to perform in front of a live audience to convey that, environmentally, everyone can make a difference.

There will be a School Garden Workshop for educators as well as an off-site Pine Rockland Workday for middle and high school students on Saturday, January 11th. The Pine Rockland Workday will be led by Fairchild’s Connect to Protect team.

On January 15th, The Fairchild Challenge will host an Art Show to exhibit elementary, middle, and high school student works. All Fairchild Challenge events are free to students and their families. Please, come and support your peers!

students pose at the Parade of Incredible Insects

students pose with their insect masks


November 2013

November was a busy month for The Fairchild Challenge. Middle and High school students participated in a landscape design art workshop, the Sounds of Nature: Composition & Performance music event, and the Fall Environmental Immersion Day. Elementary students submitted 344 total entries for the Mask: Parade of Incredible Insects Challenge.

“Sounds of Nature” was a two-night event of original music performances. Recent collaboration with University of Miami’s Frost School of Music meant that students were asked to submit a musical score prior to their performances. Eight-hundred students and educators presented forty-four musical pieces that either interpreted a South Florida ecosystem or a time-lapse nature video.

Upcoming events include a high school Debate Workshop with the University of Miami Debate Team and an elementary Parade of Incredible Insects.

Sounds of Nature Performance photo

Students create sounds of a rainstorm.


October 2013

As of October 19th, nearly 250 schools had registered for The Fairchild Challenge 2013-2014. That number keeps growing as our entry due dates approach.

Wednesday, October 2nd marked our first entry due date. We received 129 entries for the elementary T-shirt Design: Baynanza challenge. Twelve high schools registered for our Fall Environmental Immersion Day event. Eighty middle school students and 102 high school students submitted entries for the Exploring, Explaining, and Conserving the World of Tropical Plants Design challenge. Seventy-three teachers sent us designs for the Educator Challenge. We applaud all the students and educators who submitted entries in October.

The middle, high, and educator design challenges celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. The winning high school design was featured as the 2013 Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Ramble event t-shirt!

Workshops were popular this month. The elementary team held two workshops to help students with Challenge 3, Art: Exploring Ecosystems. A total of two hundred and sixty-nine middle school students and their chaperones listened to the ethnobotanical stories of local Haitian-Creole, Spanish, and English speaking senior citizens during our three day Green Treasures: A Living History interview workshop. For educators, we held a School Garden and a School Conservation Plan workshop, to help teachers lead their students through particularly popular (gardens) and challenging (conservation plan) Challenges. A big thanks to our enthusiastic workshop and professional development participants.
Hialeah High t-shirt design winner


September 2013

The 2013-2014 Fairchild Challenge has begun with over 220 participating schools…and the registrations are still coming in!

Stormy Saturday, September seventh was the day of The Fairchild Challenge for Elementary Schools’ Teachers’ Information Brunch. Despite the weather, well over 200 teachers attended the event. Thanks to all who came.

A new collaboration between The Fairchild Challenge and the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music has helped create a music composition and performance Challenge. On Saturday, September seventh, middle and high school teachers were invited to attend the Sounds of Nature: Music Composition Professional Development, taught by UM Frost School of Music graduate students, Rafael de Lima and Bill Longo. Attendees learned the basics of writing musical composition, notation and even film-scoring.

Joyce Machinski and Jason Downing led Citizen Science – Plant Conservation and Restoration, a Professional Development workshop for educators. The workshop focused on ways that schools can participate in Fairchild’s Connect to Protect program and various other local citizen science projects.

October will bring more events and professional developments: a School Garden Workshop (Oct., 5), Green Treasures Student Workshops (Oct., 16-18), a Flying WILD Teacher Workshop (Oct., 12), Elementary Art Workshops (Oct., 19 & Oct., 23), and a Conservation Plan Teacher Workshop (Oct., 19). We look forward to the next month of The Fairchild Challenge fun!                                                                                              


August 2013

Celebrating the start of a new school year!

More than 250 teachers attended the high school and middle school information session for the upcoming school year. In its 12th year we anticipate the participation of more than 260 prek-12 schools in environmentally focused and science based challenges in collaboration with Florida International University an The University of Miami. The new challenges for high school and middle school include a performance competition with support from the Frost School of Music and a School Conservation Plan in cooperation with the USDA.




Last updated 12/12/2013