Thursday, November 13, 2008




 Coral Gables, FL, November 14, 2008-On November 12, 2008, The Fairchild Challenge received endorsement from the National Forum on Children and Nature as one of 30 projects nationwide that demonstrate new and creative ways to reconnect kids with nature.

 The Fairchild Challenge is a free, annual, environmental program that targets teenagers and offers separate but related Challenge options or competitions for middle and high schools. The program is launched annually at the beginning of each school year, and ends with awards ceremonies in May. Students compete in a variety of Challenges, including art, design, writing, research, exploration, debate, performance, school garden creations and school greening initiatives.

 The program allows schools to accrue points towards earning the Fairchild Challenge award by participating in some or all of the year‘s Challenge options. The program is pitched to schools via teachers in a variety of disciplines and is designed to engage thousands of teenagers and, by extension, their families, friends and communities.

 Last school year, the Fairchild Challenge engaged more than 40,000 South Florida students and 1,800 teachers from 102 middle and high schools.

 Teachers, school district officials, and community partners embrace the Fairchild Challenge because it is aligned with the state education standards,is offered free of charge, promotes interdisciplinary, open-ended learning, and builds "Green" school communities. Through the Challenge, students research and critically evaluate environmental topics, become more actively engaged citizens, and come to appreciate more fully the beauty and value of nature.

 Fairchild Challenge schools include Title 1 schools and private schools, as well as charter schools and schools for physically and emotionally handicapped kids.

 According to Caroline Lewis, Director of Education:  "Promoting the program through schools maximizes youth involvement and weaves attention to nature into the daily lives of young people, regardless of race,religion, socioeconomic status, interest, and ability. Long term, the program could well effect systemic change with respect to bridging young people‘s chasm-like disconnect from nature."

The Fairchild Challenge is proving to be an effective way to engage tens of thousands of teens and preteens, and by extension, their schools, families, friends, neighbors and communities.

Interest is growing nationally and internationally. Educators from 43 zoos, public gardens and museums have attended Fairchild Challenge Satellite Training workshops to learn about and eventually implement the Fairchild Challenge in their own communities. Sites trained range from Chicago and Utah, to Durban, South Africa and Costa Rica. Thus far, eight sites have, with guidance, designed and launched their own Fairchild Challenge for their area schools, and several more sites are in the planning phases.

 Children have a basic right to a healthy, whole childhood. Despite major advances in medicine, education and other fields, however, kids today are developing chronic health conditions--such as obesity and depression-earlier and more frequently than ever before. Growing evidence links the decline in children‘s health, in part, to their disconnect with nature, including less active time outdoors.

 Recognizing an urgent need to reconnect kids with nature, The Conservation Fund launched the National Forum on Children and Nature in 2007. The Forum includes 51 dynamic public and private leaders and is chaired by Governors M. Jodi Rell (CT), Edward Rendell (PA), Mark Sanford (SC) and Brian Schweitzer (MT), with honorary co-chair Richard Louv, bestselling author of "Last Child in the Woods." The mayors of Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago are Forum members, as are the CEOs of The North Face, REI and the National Audubon Society, among other organizations.

 The Forum‘s mission is to: elevate the issue of reconnecting children with nature to the highest levels of our national consciousness; connect the fast-growing grass-roots side of this movement to some of the most powerful engines of American society - public, private and nonprofit; and make real for every American-through nationally significant demonstration projects-ways that each of us can help reconnect children with nature.

Over the past year, the Forum received 560 proposals from projects seeking endorsement. Forum advisory panels culled the best ideas for investment in children‘s health through nature, particularly in the areas of education, technology and community. Ultimately, the Forum endorsed 30 projects, based on their relevance, impact and sustainability. The FairchildChallengeis one of these 30.

 "The National Forum on Children and Nature proudly endorses the Fairchild Challenge for its vision, creativity and commitment to the well-being of future generations," said Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund. "Collectively and individually, these demonstration projects are a platform for advocating for change locally and nationally."

 By endorsing these projects, the Forum commits to raising visibility and support for them. To learn more about the Forum and projects, see, a website slated to go live in mid-November.

 About FairchildTropicalBotanic Garden

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is dedicated to exploring, explaining and conserving the world of tropical plants. It is one of the premier conservation and education-based gardens in the world and a recognized international leader in both Florida and international conservation. Currently Fairchild has field programs in over 20 countries including support to protected areas in Madagascar and Africa and botanic garden development and renovation projects in South and Central America, the Caribbean and Middle East. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden houses the National Palm Collection as recognized by the American Public Gardens Association (APGA), has the world‘s greatest living collection of palms and cycads; an education program reaching more than 30,000 school children per year; hosts popular events like the International Chocolate Festival, International Mango Festival and International Orchid Festival, the Ramble, concerts, affiliated plant society shows and sales and more; and, is a not-for-profit organization relying on the support of its 40,000 members and benefactors. Fairchild hosts major art events such as Botero, Lichtenstein and Chihuly at Fairchild this year and Chihuly at Fairchild in 2005 and 2006. Fairchild is located at 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables (Miami), Florida 33156. Admission is $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for children 6-17 and free to children 5 and under and Fairchild members. For more information, please visit us at and on Facebook at



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