For those of you who are just learning about the Fairchild Palms, and as a refresher for those who have attended our events but may have missed the message: we are a group of local professionals that get together at happy hours at various restaurants and bars in Miami-Dade County, and at signature events held at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, to raise money to donate to the Fairchild Challenge. (Learn more about the Fairchild Challenge at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s website, here.) Because the purpose of our charity is fundraising for this great program dedicated to fostering environmental awareness, scholarship and stewardship in kids from Kindergarten through 12th grade, our participation and volunteer efforts at Challenge events is one of the most rewarding (and fun!) activities that we look forward to throughout the years.
There were, and continue to be, many wonderful Challenge events this school year – such as the “Sounds of Nature: Composition & Performance” challenge, where students composed and performed original scores that correlated to ecosystems portrayed in photographs or time lapse nature videos (held November 20th and 21st, 2013); and “Green Cuisine: Fairchild’s Food & Garden” challenge, where high school and middle school students will prepare and share vegetarian dishes with ingredients introduced to the U.S. by Dr. David Fairchild (coming up on April 12th and 13th this year).
On Saturday, February 1st, I volunteered as a judge for the first part of the high school “Student Congress Environmental Debates” challenge, when students from more than 20 high schools here in Miami-Dade spent the day at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden debating environmental topics. There were many topics, including a bill to ban foreign ethanol imports, a bill to raise the Florida Turnpike toll by 25 cents to help maintain and protect the Everglades and Biscayne National Park, and a bill to support a national 20% increase of nuclear energy by 2018. The students were divided into a House of Representatives and a Senate, and I had the pleasure of judging students in the Senate on a beautiful Saturday morning at the Garden. As Fairchild Challenge High School Coordinator Thad Foote, later said:
“For me, the debates represent a perfect amalgam of what we teach, encourage and celebrate here at The Challenge. Students research facts, interact with peers and learn others’ points of view, synthesize what they have learned and come up with their own opinions, defend them and be heard. It’s beautiful thing…”
The students put on three minute opening arguments followed by three minutes of cross examination in the form of follow up questions by other students, the full process being regulated by a (volunteer) chair. The students would frequently become so engaged in the topics that they would move for extensions of the amount of time to cross-examine their peers, and after each debate topic was argued I was itching to hear more! When my day of volunteering was over I was reluctant to leave. Ultimately, the high schools that won 1st and 2nd place at this year’s Environmental Debates were:
• 1st place: TERRA (House) and Ronald Reagan/Doral (Senate)
• 2nd place: Miami Palmetto (House) and South Plantation (Senate)
Congratulations to all of the students for working hard to prepare for these debates and for making excellent arguments in support of their positions, making it tough for the judges to come to a final decision.
I find it both rewarding and inspiring to Judge the Challenge events, where I get to see the payoff of all of our hard work here at the Palms, and of course, the payoff of all of YOUR support – our members and donors! These kids really get into the Challenge events and they learn from it and from each other, which is why it is so important that we continue to teach kids about the importance of environmental conservation and stewardship. After all, the future of our planet is in their hands!
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about these great volunteer opportunities!