An Environmental Education Program that Works in Miami and Around the World (page 2)

By — Nature Deficit Disorder Special Edition Contributor
Updated on May 17, 2010

The Fairchild Challenge Fosters Environmental Awareness, Scholarship, and Stewardship

The success of the program is continuously monitored and evaluated through the use of teacher and student surveys, teacher discussion forums, interviews, email communications, direct observations of the program at various school sites, and the quality of student entries.  Surveys indicate that after participating in one Challenge option:

  • 78% of high school students and 74% percent of middle school students became more interested in the environment.
  • 79% of middle and high school students found that their knowledge of and appreciation for the environment increased.
  • 58% of high school students that participated in either the Environmental Debates and/or environmental Immersion Day indicated an interest in pursuing a career in environmental science.

Worldwide Replication

The program has become a model beyond South Florida, influencing programs nationally and internationally. Fairchild staff has trained educators from as far away as Chicago, Pasadena, Utah, Costa Rica, South Africa and Venezuela to adapt the Fairchild Challenge to their institutions and communities.

Creating a Positive Outlet for Teenagers

Teenagers are at an interesting time in their lives; many believe they can do anything, and they have passion, time and energy.  By nature, they are bright, articulate, confident, assertive, fearless, and funny.  But teens are also confused, angry, shy, selfish, and narcissistic. Often, they are looking for something bigger than themselves to embrace and the Fairchild Challenge seems to provide an outlet. It allows diverse audiences of urban teens to connect with nature physically, emotionally, creatively, and intellectually. We, educators, parents, administrators, and community partners, should offer support and cheer loudly!

To learn more about the Fairchild Challenge and how you can replicate the program in your community, go to

To see a showcase of student work, go to

Born and raised in Port-of Spain, Trinidad, Ms. Lewis has a B.S. in biology, a B.Ed. in secondary school science and environmental science education and an M.S. in educational leadership. Miami, Florida has been her home for more than 20 years where she currently lives with her husband and two daughters, ages 17 and 18. Caroline Lewis spent 22 years as a science teacher and high school principal. She has been at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden since 2002, and directs the education programs currently engaging more than 55,000 students and thousands of adults, annually.  She designed and initiated the creative, competitive multidisciplinary Fairchild Challenge program to promote teenagers’ botanical and environmental awareness, scholarship, and stewardship. The Fairchild Challenge is spearheading a green movement in urban schools and is now being emulated in several cities, nationally and internationally.

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