Archive for November 4th, 2013

November 4, 2013

Fairchild Challenge at Phipps: Exploring Nature Through Poetry and Food

by Melissa Harding


This year’s Fairchild Challenge at Phipps started off strong with two great challenges for middle and high school students. The first challenge for middle school students was to explore the nature in their neighborhoods, using art and poetry to describe their experiences. After researching traditional haikus that depict images from nature, participating students were asked to produce their own haikus about nearby nature and provide the reader with impressions of nature “around your block.” Each school was tasked with submitting a book of these haikus with original cover art.

Thirty-two middle schools ended up sending in lovely haiku poems for our first of six challenges. In fact, the entries were so wonderful, with beautiful artwork throughout the books as well as on the covers, that it was hard to pick a winner! The books were covered in painted leaves, Japanese brush-work and original photographs; the poems inside were thoughtful, with one teacher even submitting a book entirely in Spanish (written by her Spanish students). The esteemed panel of judges included botanist, Dr. Stephen Tonsor, nature photographer and Director of Science Education and Research at Phipps, Molly Steinwald, artist, Daviea Davis and poet, Shirley Stevens; the judges thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of choosing the top award winners, as difficult as the task was.

1st Place: Shaler Area Middle School
2nd Place: Harrison Middle School
3rd Place (tie): Carson Middle School and Marshall Middle School

Honorable Mention: West Hempfield Middle School and Shaffer Elementary 6th Grade

Judge’s Pick Awards:
Owen North – Avonworth Middle School
Mikayla Davic– Harrison Middle School
Logan Gibbons -Keystone Oaks Middle School
Tavo Campos -Shaler Area Middle School
Sophia Kachur – Shaler Area Middle School

Check out their beautiful artwork in the slideshow below!

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 The first place winners of all middle school challenges will be invited to appear on the Saturday Light Brigade radio program. The Saturday Light Brigade can be heard every Saturday morning on WRCT 88.3 FM. It also streams live at where the interview will be archived under Neighborhood Voices. Join Shaler Area Middle School students on Saturday, November 16th at 10:35 a.m. Check out the broadcast here.

The first challenge for high school students was to explore where their food comes from, plant to plate. Participants were asked to understand their food’s carbon footprint, considering everything from transportation to pesticides, and then use their knowledge to create a “low-impact” meal. Each meal consisted of a main dish and either an appetizer, side dish or dessert. Students were asked to creatively name their dishes and submit complete recipes, including information about each plant used. They also were required to submit a one paragraph explanation that compared their meal with an average American meal. Finally, before they turned in their submissions, each team of participants was required to prepare one of their dishes and serve it to classmates, who rated it on taste and creativity. These classroom rating were counted in each meal’s final score, along with overall judging done by food experts from the Chatham University Food Studies Program.

Local produce was the star of the primarily vegetarian entries, all of which impressed the judges very much. Meals ranged from simple to complex, but all showed a great deal of thought and effort in the preparation.

1st Place: Shaler Area High School, Pumpkin French Toast with Fried Apples
2nd Place: Bishop Carroll Catholic High School, Chicken and Vegetable Stew  with Homemade Apple Sauce
3rd Place: North Allegheny Sr. High School, Homemade Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and a Local Ingredients Salad

The judges also felt very strongly that the three following entries deserved Honorable Mention:

West Mifflin Area High School, Tomato Zucchini Skillet and Zucchini Salsa
Hampton High School. Pesto Pasta and Smoothie Pops
Shaler Area High School, Autumn Stew with Homemade Pretzels

While each challenge has a winner, all participating students are winners for learning more about the world around them!

The above photos were taken by Lisa Xu.


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