The Upper Keys Fairchild Challenge

Inspiring Students to Discover Why Plants Matter

What is the Upper Keys Fairchild Challenge?

The Fairchild Challenge is an interdisciplinary environmental education program made available through Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden for botanic gardens worldwide.

The Upper Keys Fairchild Challenge (UKFC) is our Gardens' re-interpreted, localized, educational program, offered free-of-charge to all Monroe County schools and teachers who choose to participate. The UKFC meets the critical need of actively encouraging plant and environmental education in our area's local schools; it meets all STEM teaching requirements and perhaps, most importantly, it exposes students to the world of plants, to biodiversity.

UKFC encourages students to discover Why Plants Matter. And, best of all, the program is on-going in each grade - each school year - so students are exposed to learning how plants are integrated in every aspect of their lives; each year they are in school. The result is young people who are truly plant and environmentally aware and thus prepared to apply their knowledge to solving the pressing environmental issues facing us this century.

Each “challenge” provides teachers with a way to integrate lessons about the importance of plants and the natural environment into their daily curricula, in fun and creative ways that align with state and national teaching standards. Teachers submit students’ best projects to our Garden; we organize judging sessions in which community leaders evaluate entries on a point-based scale. Winning students and teachers are recognized annually at our Gardens Awards Ceremony; certificates, medals and monetary awards for winning schools and students are presented during this event.

Over the 4 years of our partnership, UKFC has grown our localized program from 2 schools and 50 students to 9 schools, 71 teachers and over 1000 students - over 50% of our local the school population. With continuing support, we hope to be able to offer our UKFC program for many years to come. Furthermore, we are convinced this a program of great value to all botanic gardens, especially smaller gardens with limited staff and funding. We are always looking to promote our educational successes to other botanic gardens throughout the world, so our message of "Why Plants Matter" can reach ever more students, teachers and adults alike.

The images below tell the story of this unique Florida Keys botanical education program in words and pictures. Below that, you will find detailed information about each year's Upper Keys Fairchild Challenge.