Monday, May 4, 2015



Media contact: Brooke LeMaire
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
305-667-1651, ext. 3392


BioTECH students create solution for the Million Orchid Project micropropagation flasks



Coral Gables, FL, May 5, 2015 – For the first time in the United States, high school students can focus their studies on botany at the new BioTECH @ Richmond Heights High School. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden has teamed up with Miami Dade County Public Schools and Zoo Miami to offer a conservation biology education initiative that allows students to do on-site, hands-on research outside of the classroom, including contributing to the Million Orchid Project native orchid reinstallation.


Established with grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education and opened in August 2014 as part of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, BioTECH is the first magnet school in the U.S. to specialize in botany where students participate in field research. Students supplement their core classes with college level botany courses in plant molecular systematics. They use Fairchild as an extension of their classroom with weekly visits to conduct field research. With project-based learning activities, Fairchild highlights the “S” in STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). These projects illustrate the human impact on biological diversity so students are equipped with the knowledge of how to protect species, their habitats, and ecosystems from possible extinction.


One goal is to fill an unmet need for botany education and careers. “A shortage of opportunities for students to participate in authentic scientific research – combined with diminished access to natural areas and a lack of laboratory resources within our schools – has caused students to be less prepared for college-level STEM fields,” said Amy Padolf, Director of Education at Fairchild. “One of the nation’s major challenges is finding tools to encourage diverse populations to pursue STEM careers, particularly in fields related to the environment.”


A long-term project students have been involved in is the Million Orchid Project, which aims to reintroduce one million native orchids – endangered due to poaching and urbanization – back into South Florida’s urban areas. In the 2014-15 school year, 144 9th grade students micropropagated orchid seedlings by hand in the state-of-the-art laboratories installed at BioTECH and Fairchild’s DiMare Science Village, where they worked alongside trained scientists. They presented their findings and growing methods to visitors at the International Orchid Festival in March 2015 and will soon plant their first round of propagated orchids throughout public spaces in Miami.


Other activities completed in the inaugural year include field exploration of important plant areas, creating GPS maps of native orchids, identifying trees in Miami that are suitable for growing epiphytic orchids, collecting seed pods to propagate new plants, and learning the proper methods of analyzing data. Students also interacted with graduate and postdoctoral student researchers from partner colleges Florida International University, University of Miami, Miami Dade College, and University of Florida.


BioTECH joins Fairchild’s repertoire of conservation education offerings, which is the largest education program of any metropolitan area with a reach of 150,000 students each year. This includes The Fairchild Challenge, which offers an annual series of environmentally-themed projects and events for elementary, middle, and high school students internationally.


About BioTECH @ Richmond Heights
BioTECH @ Richmond Heights 9-12, in collaboration with its partners, aims to deliver an interdisciplinary, rigorous and relevant STEM education to develop successive generations of researchers who will apply their ingenuity and training to the conservation of life on Earth. Through participation in a STEM research-based curriculum, BioTECH @ Richmond Heights 9-12 will develop global citizens with deep understanding of the value of all living organisms for the sustainability of Earth’s biosphere.


About Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Established in 1938 and comprising 83 acres in Miami, Fla., Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to exploring, explaining and conserving the world of tropical plants. The world-renowned plant collections feature palms, cycads, orchids, tropical fruit trees and more. Fairchild has the largest education program of any metropolitan area, reaching more than 200,000 schoolchildren each year with environmental programs like The Fairchild Challenge. It aims to inspire a greater knowledge and love for plants and gardening so that all can enjoy the beauty and bounty of the tropical world. Special events include Chocolate, Mango, and Orchid Festivals in addition to an annual art exhibition, concerts, plant sales and more. Fairchild is located at 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, FL 33156. For more info, call 305-667-1651 or visit www.fairchildgarden.org



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