Archive for ‘Fairchild Challenge’

November 3, 2014

“You Unplugged”: Challenge #1 in the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps

by Melissa Harding

IMG_3309-001

For one day this past month, over 1,250 middle and high school students turned off their iPods, Kindles and computers and went outside, as part of the first challenge of the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps. The first challenge of the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps for both middle and high school students, You Unplugged, asked participants to spend an entire day unplugged from all the social and entertainment technology in their lives. High school students wrote a reflective essay describing their time unplugged, whereas middle school students both wrote essays and had the option of also writing an original poem about the experience. While some of these essays reflect the drama of adolescence, many of them were striking in their creativity, honesty and scope.

Many students talked about how they were better able to connect with friends, family and even the natural world. Winning essayist from Springdale Junior High writes, “Without the distraction of a bright little screen I became more aware of my surroundings. Admittedly, if I would have been asked on day one what are the colors of the flowers in my flower bed I would not have known. On day two I studied their dark purple color, their shape, and how the rain drops stuck to the petals. I went for a walk in nature and observed.”

Another middle school student spent her day making art, from practicing her flute to painting. The second place author, from Shaler Area Middle School, felt that being away from her electronics improved her art so much that she has committed to reduced technology use overall, even after the challenge. She writes, “As for playing the flute, I can now feel the music that I play. Notes pour out naturally. I’m prepared for my Alley Valley Honors Band audition and hold the front seat in concert at school, simply because I chose to practice for 50 minutes each day in place of watching TV. Cutting down on electronics has changed my life for the better.”

The high school entries focused much more on how difficult it was to give up technology; many felt that their lifelines to civilization had been cut. The first place winning author, from Gateway High School, wrote that his day without technology made him realize that he was “addicted” to his devices. “Based on this experiment, I am pretty sure that electronics act like a drug with their addicting effect on my mind.” He goes on to write, “The huge usage of them is a major waste of time and a good example of how Americans live far above their means. They don’t serve any practical uses yet we overuse them all day long.”

Other students wrote that they were ready to make a real change in their lives. While no one wrote that they were giving up technology for good, many said that they would take more time every day to look out the window and go outside. The third place author, from the A.W. Beattie Career Center, writes, “That night when I went to bed, I decided to leave all of my things unplugged. I didn’t need them to entertain me. I went to bed knowing what I had learned today. I have the quietness of the outdoors, the sunlight, warm clothing, and a nice book collection. I can always go take a walk, and I can go play at the park. I honestly could go more days that didn’t involve all the batteries and chargers of our electronics, for just some of the silence, sweetness and activity of a natural day.”

Overall, most participants reflected that they learned a great deal from their technology fast. They spent more time with family, friends and pets. They also spent more time outside; many reported feeling free and happy outdoors. The consensus was that while this was a tough assignment, it was a good thing to do.

Thomas Huxley, contemporary of Charles Darwin, said about the disconnect between people and nature: “To a person uninstructed in natural history, his country or sea-side stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall.” Many youth today are walking through a hall of backwards pictures, never knowing what they are missing. Fortunately, through challenges like You Unplugged and others, some are flipping these paintings over and discovering their beauty.

Winners of the You, Unplugged: Nearby Nature challenge will be interviewed about their experience on The Saturday Light Brigade family radio station on November 22 at 10:05 am. Tune in to WRCT at 88.3 FM for their 25-min segment! Interviews will be available online about a week later.

The above photos were taken and are copyrighted by Phipps Science Education and Research staff.

September 29, 2014

High School Eco-Challenge Matches Students with Scientists

by Melissa Harding

DSC_0056

Last week, over 150 middle and high school students from local schools came to Phipps to participate in the Eco-Challenge, a multidisciplinary environmental outreach event co-run by Phipps and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3. Students worked in teams of four to learn about sustainability over the course of three challenges. In the first, students learned about the benefits of upcycling, or reusing materials to create a product of higher value or quality than the original materials. Students used “trash”, donated by local salvage non-profit Construction Junction, to create temporary mosaics. In the next, they took a scavenger hunt around the Conservatory with the help of our wonderful, volunteer docents to learn about the ecology of the landscape and greenhouses. Finally, students got the chance to work with our visiting Botany in Action Fellows, interviewing them on their work and career paths.

This challenge is always a favorite every year; students love meeting real scientists and are always affected by the passion and excitement that our Fellows exude when they talk about their work.

See more photos from the day in the slideshow below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This event also serves as a kick-off for the Fairchild Challenge, a year-long environmental education program for both middle and high school students sponsored through the Fairchild Tropical and Botanic Gardens in Miami, Florida. In this multidisciplinary program, older students participate in a variety of sustainability-based “challenges” that focus on art, writing, music, and more. Schools choose to participate in one or all of seven challenges that take place over the course of the school year. At the end of the spring, monetary awards are given to the winning schools for use in their environmental science departments.

The above photos were taken by Science Education Staff and volunteers.

September 25, 2014

Middle School Eco-Challenge: Students Think About Food, Trash and Sustainability

by Melissa Harding

DSC_0025

This morning over 180 middle school students from a variety of local schools came to Phipps to participate in the Eco-Challenge, a multidisciplinary environmental outreach event co-run by Phipps and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3. Students worked in teams of four, learning about their “food carbon footprint”, creating beautiful mosaics out of repurposed “junk” materials, and going on a sustainability scavenger hunt through the Conservatory. The weather was beautiful and students had a great time working and learning both indoors and out.

One of the most popular challenges involved using trash materials donated by local salvage non-profit Construction Junction. To see some of the gorgeous artwork that students made, check out the slideshow below!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This event also serves as a kick-off for the Fairchild Challenge, a year-long environmental education program for both middle and high school students sponsored through the Fairchild Tropical and Botanic Gardens in Miami, Florida. In this multidisciplinary program, students participate in a variety of sustainability-based “challenges” that focus on art, writing, music, and more. Schools choose to participate in one or all of seven challenges that take place over the course of the school year. At the end of the spring, monetary awards are given to the winning schools for use in their environmental science departments.

Friday we welcome a mix of middle and high school students to Phipps for a second day of the Eco-Challenge for its fourth year. It is a pleasure hosting these great kids every year and we are so excited to see the program grow!

The above photos were taken by Science Education and Research staff and volunteers.

June 9, 2014

The Fairchild Challenge at Phipps Awards: Celebrating a Year of Hard Work

by Melissa Harding

hgphipps fairchild awards-31024-140527
At the beginning of the school year, the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps charged local middle and high school students with the task of using all of their art, music, writing and photography skills to reimagine the way they think about environmental science. The Challenge invites students to investigate and engage with some of the most controversial contemporary topics in environmental science and devise imaginative and effective responses. This multi-disciplinary, standards-based outreach program is designed to give students the opportunity to shine in their areas of interest; from singing a song to writing beautiful prose, every student has a talent that can be utilized in this program.

Seven challenges later and over 1,800 students have participated in at least one, many of them more than one. The number of total students engaged in the Challenge, meaning the total number of occasions for participation, is over 3,700. Not only did these students get the benefits of learning more about both themselves and how they relate to the natural world, but they also had the chance to compete for prize money. The five highest scoring middle and high school teams win not just pride, but a check to be used in their school’s environmental science program. Past winners have purchased green houses, started new science projects and taken innovative field trips.

On two separate nights, we honored these students with awards ceremonies. Participants recieved their individual and group awards and learned which schools won the monetary prizes. After the ceremony, all students and family members were invited down to the new CSL classroom for healthy refreshments and a chance to see all of the challenge entries submitted throughout the school year, as well as to check out the Biophilic Art exhibit featuring work from the high school entries. Both nights were lovely and festive occassions for students to bask in their accomplishments.

The Fairchild Challenge at Phipps 2013-14 winners are:

Middle School:
1st place ($1000): Shaler Area Middle School
2nd place ($500): Schaffer Elementary School 6th Grade
3rd place ($250): Carson Middle School, J.E. Harrison Middle School and Keystone Oaks Middle School

High School:
1st place ($1,000): Shaler Area High School
2nd place ($500): North Allegheny Senior High School and Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy
3rd place ($250): Hampton High School

While only five school from each category are able to collect the prize money, all of the students who participated are winners for learning new things, facing tough issues and creating innovative solutions. We celebrate all of our participating schools and students for their hard work!

The above photo was taken by Phipps staff and volunteers.

April 1, 2014

Amanda and Kate Visit Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in Coral Gables, Florida!

by Melissa Harding

P1040817

Last week, educators Amanda Joy and Kate Borger attended a Fairchild Challenge summit at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in Coral Gables, Florida. Home of the Fairchild Challenge, the FTBG invited Challenge facilitators from all over the country to meet and discuss ways to improve their institutions’ program. Participants learned how to effectively evaluate their program, how to successfully write grants and work with local partners, and how to incorporate new aspects of the Challenge into their existing programs. Now open to elementary-age children, there is a whole new audience of students who are able to participate. Additionally, the Challenge has gone global in its reach and offers programs overseas, having trained over 60 gardens all over the world to offer the Fairchild Challenge.

Amanda and Kate had a wonderful time learning and meeting new educators, exploring the beautiful gardens, and just plain seeing the sun. They are excited to use their new knowledge to take the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps to the next level!

This photo was taken by Amanda Joy.

January 30, 2014

This Weekend: Students on the Radio!

by Melissa Harding

SLB2
hjghgjgj
For the third year running, the Saturday Light Brigade radio show will feature interviews with Fairchild Challenge at Phipps middle school challenge winners. The first place winners of all middle school challenges will be invited to appear on the Saturday Light Brigade radio program. On the air since 1978,  The Saturday Light Brigade is a Saturday morning public radio program that blends acoustic music with  live performances by youth and adults, participatory puzzles, on-air telephone calls, and interviews with other community-based nonprofits serving youth and families.

This coming Saturday at 10:40 am, the winners of the latest challenge will be interviewed about the biophilic designs that they created for their school.  Students from Shaffer Elementary 6th Grade, J. E. Harrison Middle School and Shaler Area Middle School will be joining SLB host, Larry Berger, who will interview them live on the air during the “Youth Expression Showcase” segment of the show.  Throughout the school year, all the young winners will have a chance to discuss their achievements and the environmental issues that they have been exploring through the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps.  It’s a great opportunity for students’ voices to be heard, literally, around the region and beyond!

The Saturday Light Brigade can be heard every Saturday morning on WRCT 88.3 FM. It also streams live at slbradio.org where the interview will be archived under Neighborhood Voices.

The above photo is used courtesy of the Saturday Light Brigade.

November 26, 2013

Fairchild Challenge at Phipps: Climate Change Public Service Announcements

by Melissa Harding

During the latest challenge of the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps, students were asked to think about the impact of their individual and collective actions on climate change and to talk about their findings in the form of a video. Over 110 high school students participated in this challenge! Students created videos to inform their peers about the reality of climate change, while inspiring them to take responsive action. Each entry was less than one minute and done in the form of a public service announcement. The entries submitted were varied in their approach, but all were wonderful. It was hard for the judges,  Director of Education for the Pittsburgh Filmmakers Brady Lewis, filmmaker Mark Dixon, Director Research on Learning at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History Mary Ann Steiner, and Interpretive Specialist for Phipps Adam Haas, to choose the winners!

1st Place: Gateway High School  “Paper Stop Animation”

2nd Place: Moon Area High School  “Mother Nature”

 3rd Place :  Shaler Area High School

Honorable Mention: Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy 

While each challenge has a winner, all participating students are winners for learning more about the world around them!
Thanks to all these wonderful students for submitting these great videos!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 199 other followers

%d bloggers like this: