Fairchild Challenge Prepares Youth to Protect the Planet
“Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” — John F. Kennedy
Today’s adults will not solve every environmental challenge we face in the world. We will make progress, certainly, but the solutions to most of the major problems that plague us will not come in our lifetimes. The future of our species — and with it, the future of all life on Earth — hinges on the actions of our children and their children.
We cannot sit back idly and expect generations yet to come to take up the banner of environmentalism and sustainability. We must begin by educating — and inspiring — our youth to learn about the problems and to take action to fix them. One program that has been successfully motivating youth to learn about the environment is the Fairchild Challenge.
The seven year-old program, which began at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida, provides junior high and high school students with competitive projects, contests, and performance opportunities that engage them in a study of the natural world. More than 40,000 students participated in this free, educational experience in Florida alone this academic year.
Caroline Lewis, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s director of education, who oversees the Fairchild Challenge, says, “The Fairchild Challenge promotes, provokes and celebrates young people’s engagement in environmental issues. The program is a vital tool to give young people a voice in the national and international conversation about the critical issues affecting our planet – and to foster lifelong environmental stewardship in the students, in their families and in their communities. We are gratified to see our youths becoming more passionate about protecting our planet.”
Current Challenge options include:
- Write opinion and research papers
- Perform songs and skits
- Create gardens, artwork and newsletters
- Design solar-powered devices
- Formulate “green” cuisine menus
Participating students can earn points for their sponsoring organization. By earning a specified number of points, students qualify their school or organization for the Fairchild Challenge Award, which is presented in May. Qualifying schools win a monetary prize to be used for a green project of their choice.
According to Lewis, the template for the Fairchild Challenge initiative is expanding across the US and other nations, to foster “environmental awareness, scholarship, and stewardship in teenagers and pre-teens.” Satellite Training workshops provide educators from schools, museums, and other public and private facilities with the opportunity to learn about and implement the Fairchild Challenge in their own communities. The program is active in Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Utah, USA; South Africa, Venezuela, and Costa Rica.
In February 2008, the Conservation Fund’s National Forum on Children and Nature (NFCN) endorsed the Fairchild Challenge as one of 30 models that provide novel means for connecting youth to the environment. Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund, said, “We celebrate these projects for demonstrating how to get kids back outdoors. This is critical for children’s health — and for the future of our environment. Saving a generation is not a spectator sport. These ideas invite corporate leaders, educators, community planners, government officials and others into the game.”
To find out how an educational organization in your community can become a part of the Fairchild Challenge, visit the Fairchild Challenge website or call (305) 667-1651.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)