Sunday, May 11, 2014

It was a rewarding night for all as 250-plus students, teachers and parents who crowded into Key Largo's Murray E. Nelson Center to receive their certificates, awards and more for the conclusion of this year's environmental education program supported by the Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort.

In all, more than 900 students, 50 teachers and six Upper Keys schools participated in the 2013-14 educational program.

The Upper Keys Fairchild Challenge is an annual, standards-based, environmental education outreach program funded and supported by the Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort, through its partnership with Fairchild Tropical Gardens. The program offers Upper Keys students the opportunity to research and critically evaluate environmental topics, become more actively engaged citizens, and come to appreciate the beauty and value of nature.

Awards are presented to highest scoring classes, students and teachers, in both elementary and middle school grades. Key Largo Elementary and Middle School were each awarded $750 to use toward future environmental programs for placing first in their divisions, while Plantation Key Elementary School and Treasure Village Montessori Middle School both received $500 awards for placing second in their divisions. Additionally, some 400 students were recognized for their winning environmental efforts and 10 teachers were noted for their environmental dedication during this school year.

Applause for student and teacher efforts was nonstop during the early evening event. Highlights included two live performances. Dressed as native Keys creatures, the Key Largo Middle School Band opened the ceremony with "Hangin' at the Hardwood Hammock." Later on, third- and fourth-grade students from Ocean Studies Charter School treated the audience to a choral performance titled, "You've Got a Friend, Land and Sea."

Of the event, Key Largo school lead teacher Sandra Prew said, "What an amazing night for KLS [and all] schools, students, parents and teachers. Everyone's hard work certainly paid off. Seeing our students shine on stage is such a great reward. We cannot thank the Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort enough for giving us this great and unique opportunity to learn about and care for our fragile environment. We're looking forward to next year's challenges."

To learn more about the Upper Keys Fairchild Challenge program go to; click on "Explore" and then "The Fairchild Challenge." Information on all 24 challenges, schools, winners and more will be found there.

For information, call 305-852-9766, 305-852-9766, 305-393-2504, or go to