hasn't been mentioned anywhere in South Florida
Gimleteye's piece at Eye on Miami below is the
only public account I've seen or heard about.
Whatever the true facts are here, and I have no idea
what they are, they deserve a full public airing,
especially if someone is being made a scapegoat by
one of the few genuine institutions in South Florida.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden was one of
my mother's favorite places in all of South Florida
when I was growing-up in South Florida in the late
'60's thru the '70's, despite the fact that my family
lived-up in North Miami Beach. I'd guess that
she visited there, as well as Matheson Hammock,
almost as often as I was down at the Orange Bowl
for Dolphin, Hurricane and Toros (soccer)
ballgames, which was well over 150 before I left
for IU in August of '79.
Me, not so much into the whole Botany thing!
Eye on Miami blog
Trouble growing at Fairchild Tropical
Botanic Garden ... by gimleteye
January 4, 2010
Making nature fashionable and chic
When student Krystal Gonzalez creates her own clothes, the closest she gets to nature is using fabric made of cotton. But for the past two weeks she has been working with leaves, seeds and flowers to create eco-friendly designs.
Making outfits out of plants was all part of the Fairchild Challenge Botanical Fashion Show. The Fairchild Challenge is a program that allows students to explore nature by doing research and working on projects.
Students strive to earn points toward the Fairchild Challenge award with top schools earning an additional $250-$1,000 for environmental programs at their schools.
"It was very difficult. The flowers would wilt up in two days," said Krystal, 18, of Pinecrest, who calls designing clothes a hobby. "I just do it for fun."
The theme of Saturday's fashion show was Miami Chic. Students from 48 middle and high schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties participated.
Some of the criteria that judges used to rate the outfits included knowing the scientific and common name of the plants, having less than half the outfit consist of flowers and making sure all the visible parts were made from plants.
Krystal, a senior at Our Lady of Lourdes in Kendall, designed more formal clothes.
She made an off-the-shoulder dress and tuxedo from the leaves of croton, various palm trees, roses, daisies and other materials.
"I had to find the leaves randomly," said Krystal, who found most of what she used in her backyard.
She relied a lot on the colorful croton, a popular plant used in the competition, with its green, red, yellow and orange leaves.
"I am extremely proud of everyone -- the designers and the models who put it all together this past week," said Marguerite Graham, a biology teacher at Gulliver Preparatory School in Pinecrest. "They put a lot of work in."
A panel of 16 judges will vote on the entries, with scores being announced next week via e-mail to the schools.
"They don't know what everyone else is getting, we send scores to teachers at the school and they are tabulated and the winner is announced at the award ceremony in May," said Scott Sasich, communications manager for the Fairchild Challenge.
Lauren Elliott and Carly Bruening, seniors at South Plantation High who are botany students in the school's environmental science magnet program, focused on a laid-back South Florida style. They designed a sundress for girls and board shorts and a T-shirt for guys.
"I think we could win," said Carly, 17, of Sunrise. "We kept it simple."
They used leaves from the elephant ear tree for the T-shirt plus leaves from the croton plant and autograph tree (it gets its name because people can write messages on the leaves) for the dress, among other materials.
"I think it's fun," said Emily, 17, of Sunrise, who modeled the clothes. She said that she can now name the proper and common names of the plants that were used.
"It enriches their curriculum," said Pamela Krauss, a botany teacher at South Plantation. "We totally enjoyed it."
While Emily had a team of people working on her dress, David Dugard, a junior at Christopher Columbus High School, designed his short and T-shirt combination on his own.
"It took two days, I was just surprised about how fast [the leaves] die," said David, 16 of Homestead. "It was an experience."
Spectators like Trish Baron who were watching the event, were impressed by the students' creativity.
"It was really interesting," Baron, a Weston resident, said. "They all did a wonderful job."
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE
November 12, 2009
Many came dressed for the challenge -- as turtles, egrets, tourists, panthers and alligators.
After all, it was The Everglades: River of Grass contest hosted by Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables.
Participants from 33 schools vied to perform the best original skits of rap, spoken word and music.
This year more points were given for audience participation, so there was an enthusiastic entourage of teachers, families and friends.
Students from Arvida Middle School in Kendall were the first to go on stage.
They quickly had the audience moving to this chant: "The Everglades suffers and you still don't care? Wave your hands in the air."
"This is our third year in the Challenge," said Arvida's drama teacher, Lesley HoSang. "It's the first year we've seen this much excitement, and I think it's because of the audience participation addition."
"It took us a month to prepare," added Arvida's creative writing and journalism teacher Ishani Persaud. "Even though there were only eight students and two teachers on stage, there were 60 students working behind the scenes."
"All the costumes and materials were reusable items," HoSang said. "We tried to keep everything recyclable from start to finish."
Jesse Martin, a seventh-grader from The 500 Role Models Academy of Excellence in Liberty City, said the event was the first time he played drums on a stage. He has been drumming since he was 5.
"My favorite part is getting to play music in school," Jesse said.
Designed in 2002 for high schools, with middle schools added in 2003, the Fairchild Challenge has encouraged more than 57,000 South Florida students to do the right things to help the environment.
Everglades National Park Superintendent Dan Kimble thanked the middle students for their enthusiasm at the Oct. 29 competition.
"We have a biological marvel. There are no other Everglades," he said. "We have the largest eco-restoration system ever attempted on the planet right here in South Florida. Thank you, students."
They roared with applause.
Throughout the program, they were equally enthusiastic about their ecological mission.
Students from Frank C. Martin K-8 Center in Richmond Heights dressed in plastic bags and sang to Michael Jackson's Beat It.
Only they improvised with "Save It. Just save it."
Many students said they couldn't wait to continue the Challenge, which has 11 options for middle-school students. Points are accumulated through May, and then awards are given to the winning schools.
"This is really fun," said Georliam Rodriguez, an eighth-grader at South Miami K-8 Center.
"I learned a lot," said eighth-grader Sigure Williams of 500 Role Models Academy.
"The most fun I had was when I was speaking," fellow performer Rose Tillett said.
The 500 Role Models Academy Science's Coach Judy Rosenblum said the students brainstormed and wrote everything. They found an Everglades-related word for every letter in the alphabet, such as M for Marjory Stoneman Douglas and N for night blooming epidendrum, an Everglades wildflower.
Students at David Lawrence Jr. K-8 Center in North Miami made their skit into a land over the rainbow.
"Just follow the river of grass," they sang to the Wizard of Oz song Follow the Yellow Brick Road.
The students dressed as Dorothy, Munchkins, a tin man, lion, scarecrow, witch and wizard for their two-minute skit.
"Boas, parrots and mahoe, oh my!" they chanted. The mahoe is a type of plant, and all three are considered alien invaders in the Everglades.
Students from Coral Way K-8 Center in Little Havana dressed in green and covered themselves with cutout leaves. Then they rocked the house with music by Queen played on saxophones and garbage cans and lids. "We will, we will, rock you," they sang.
Students in the audience held up their illuminated cellphones with approval.
Judges for the event included Kimball and Everglades National Park rangers Larry Perez, Christina Admiral and Maria Thomson. Also appraising the students were Kirk Fordham, CEO of Everglades Foundation; Richard Gibbs Sr., director of communications of Everglades Foundation; Art Herriot, retired Florida International University scientist; Barbara Hobbs, writer and Fairchild Challenge supporter; Alex Suarez, South Florida Water Management District media specialist; Robyn Wolf, donor, graphic designer and Fairchild Challenge supporter; and Jonathan Walton, New York poet and writer.
"It was inspiring to see kids more passionate about the Everglades than even their parents and some of our lawmakers," said Fordham, of the Everglades Foundation.
Eighth-grade journalism students Michael Diaz-Silveira, Carlos Cabrales, Joseph Cacioppo and Anthony DeFurio of Epiphany Catholic School in High Pines all agreed the Challenge was fun.
"I'm also a Boy Scout, and it is great to help the environment," Michael said.
The night ended with a poetry performance by Walton, who encouraged the students to "turn down Beyoncé and Lil Wayne and take a trip to the Everglades. It is the living picture of mucky perfection."
Caroline Lewis, Fairchild's director of education, celebrated the students' art and told them to honor the teachers who helped them prepare.
"Teachers are golden," she said. "Here's to every teacher out there."
FAIRCHILD TROPICAL BOTANIC GARDEN: South Florida students get creative at Fairchild showcase -ABOUT 200 SOUTH FLORIDA STUDENTS PARTICIPATED LAST WEEKEND IN THE FAIRCHILD CHALLENGE RESEARCH PROJECT, A CULMINATION OF WORK SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE SCHOOL YEAR ON PROJECTS IN FOUR CATEGORIES
By Erika Capek
April 23, 2009
Senior Michelle Loret de Mola of Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart stood to the side of her home-cooked Peruvian Quinoa dish. She spent her Saturday explaining to judges why the dish she made was not only healthy but also environmentally friendly.
"This type of food is replacing rice, or risotto, because unlike those grains, quinoa is easily digested and has high mineral and protein content," Michelle said. "It's an excellent meal for vegetarians and every ingredient is organic or locally grown and has a low impact on the environment."
Michelle, along with 200 other high school students, came together at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden on Saturday afternoon for one of the Fairchild Challenge events.
The challenge, started and directed by Caroline Lewis, is in its seventh year and holds a variety of challenge options including performances, design challenges, papers, debates and research projects. For each option students throughout South Florida's private and public schools participate in, the more points they earn. The goal is to reach 900 points to receive a Fairchild Challenge Award and the school with the highest number of points receives $1,000 to support their environmental program. Then the next five top-scoring schools will receive $500 and the following 10 $250.
On Saturday, students from Dade, Monroe and Broward counties participated in the Fairchild Challenge Research Project. Students from 33 participating schools could take part in four categories including inner-city sanctuary, green cuisine, solar inventions and field phenology study. But no more than one group of students or an individual from each school could participate in each of the categories.
Two students from South Plantation -- Shawn Abrahams, a junior, and Vanessa Thisler, a sophomore -- took part in the field phenology study.
"We chose the bald Cyprus tree because of its drastic changes," Shawn said. "We found it in a park across from our school and we measured the tree for two months during the wet season and then another two months during the dry season."
They started the project in September by conducting research and figuring out what needed to be recorded. Then they began measuring in October and ended in January.
"We found out that during the dry season, the plants lost most of their leaves and their cones, and during the wet season, the plants retained everything," Shawn said. "I loved doing this project not only because of the learning experience, but because this is the field I'm hoping to go into after high school."
About 60 judges including architects, lawyers, professors, chefs and other community leaders listened to the students' results, scoring them on a judging rubric.
"We decided to make a vegan pizza," said Keith Williams, a senior from Central High School.
'We used fresh-grown tomatoes from our school and made our cheese from ground-up cashews and yeast flakes. Then for the 'pepperonis,' we used sweet tomatoes mixed with pecans and garlic powder, paprika and chili pepper."
Keith presented the dish with his two friends, Hector Duran, a junior, and Greg Pierre, a sophomore.
"I love cooking," Keith said. "This is such a hobby for me and I've learned so much by participating in this challenge and cooking green."
Four friends and classmates in Advanced Placement Environmental Science -- sophomores Hector Schmidt and Jamin Alfonso and juniors Lisbet Castillo and Nancy Narvaez-Garcia from Westland Hialeah High School -- participated in the inner-city sanctuary category. They designed a "pocket park" with areas for play, rest and other uses that students can enjoy at their school. They are in the process of talking with the school administration to make their design a reality at Westland High.
"We want to make the area at our school more green because right now there's only grass," Jamin said. "We incorporated native plants like the blue iris and milkweed plants to attract butterflies. We also have a rock waterfall in the middle of our design."
And another group of students from Palmetto Senior High got together to design their own solar invention. The three freshmen, Lee Seifer, Jason Schmidt and Eddie Santos, made a solar-powered aerator filter for aquaculture by using a fish tank powered , connecting old phone cords together and activating charcoal for the filter.
"By using something like this, it would provide a food source for people in Third World countries," Jason said. "This would also help species from going extinct because those people wouldn't have to kill endangered species."
The boys also went on to say that their device harvests biofuels by growing algae.
"Algae produces 15 times the amount of fuel as other biofuels," Lee said.
Lewis, Fairchild's director of education, stressed the importance of embracing not only the challenge, but the green movement that she has been working toward.
The Fairchild Challenge is getting recognition and is being replicated inplaces like Costa Rica, Venezuela, Chicago and Orlando, yet Lewis hopes more city officials will come out to the events and support this movement.
"These students and teachers take great pride in these events and we invite city officials and the school board to come and celebrate with us," Lewis said.
"It's their role and obligation to come out and see what these kids are doing. It's amazing."
On May 2, Fairchild is hosting its annual teacher celebration luncheon and Lewis is hopeful many invited officials will attend. Then on May 9 at 1 p.m., the challenge results will be announced for the high schools and 5:30 for the middle schools.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, FL