An Environmental Education Program that Works in Miami and Around the World
Today, large culturally and socio-economically diverse populations suffer from limited access to green spaces, overscheduled agendas, and an abundance of indoor, electronic, sedentary entertainment. Miami is an example of one of these populations and is seen as a microcosm of future America. With more than 340,000 students, our public school district, the fourth largest in the United States, is culturally diverse with a “minority majority” – 61% Hispanic, 27% black, 9% white, and 3% other.
Botanic Garden Addresses Urban Needs
At Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Miami, Florida, we measure success in numbers of species saved through research and conservation and lives changed through education and engagement. In 2002, we launched the Fairchild Challenge. The Challenge encourages thousands of urban teenagers to better appreciate the beauty and value of nature and foster their environmental awareness, scholarship, and stewardship. Over 45,000 South Florida students from 132 middle and high schools are currently involved in the program.
What is the Fairchild Challenge?
The Fairchild Challenge is an annual, standards-based, environmental education outreach program of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. The Challenge:
• Offers a menu of interdisciplinary options for grades 6 to 8 and 9 to 12.
• Attracts students of diverse interests, abilities, talents and backgrounds.
• Empowers teenagers to engage in civic life and encourages them to become energetic and knowledgeable members of their communities.
Because it combines education and adventure, the Challenge has caught on, growing dramatically from 1,400 student participants when it was launched as a pilot program in 2002 to more than 45,000 students six years later.
Diverse Learners Benefit from the Fairchild Challenge
The Fairchild Challenge and its menu of Challenge options can appeal to diverse learners and provide creative, authentic opportunities for teenagers to connect with nature. The program offers something for the scholar and the slug, the writer and the performer, the artist and the scientist, and the designer and the debater.
The Fairchild Challenge fosters interest in the environment by encouraging students to:
- Appreciate the beauty and value of nature.
- Develop critical thinking skills.
- Understand the need for biodiversity and conservation.
- Tap community resources.
- Become actively engaged citizens.
- Recognize that individuals do indeed make a difference.
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