Established in 1938 and comprising 83 acres in Miami, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is dedicated to exploring, explaining and conserving the world of tropical plants. Fairchild plays many roles, including museum, laboratory, learning center and conservation research facility.
Fairchild has the largest education program of any metropolitan area, reaching more than 200,000 students each year. It offers programs for students such as The Fairchild Challenge (grades pre-K through 12), Explorer Program (grades K-5), and Discovery Program (grades 6-12), as well as courses for adults and professional development workshops for educators.
The Fairchild Challenge is an award-winning environmental science competition designed to engage students of diverse interests, abilities, and backgrounds to explore the natural world. It empowers students to become the next generation of scientists, researchers, educated voters, policymakers, and environmentally-minded citizens. This standards-aligned program has been recognized as a benchmark for exceptional STEM education.
One of The Fairchild Challenge’s activities for middle and high schoolers is Growing Beyond Earth (GBE), a partnership with NASA that started in 2015. Students test varieties of edible plants for germination rates, growth habits, edible biomass yield, and other attributes using Fairchild’s GBE experimental growth chamber, which is similar to the Vegetable Production System (Veggie) on the ISS. In the 2017-18 academic year, students testing how changes in photoperiod affect the growth rate of leafy greens.
Fairchild also has the STEMLab, a decommissioned school bus that has been transformed into a mobile botanical micropropagation laboratory. Since 2015, the STEMLab has visited more than 60 middle schools in South Florida, bringing specialized lab equipment and hands-on programs that engage students with concepts in biology, chemistry, and environmental science. STEMLab encourages students to devise their own research questions and helps them collect and analyze publishable scientific data, putting local conservation and the community’s future directly in the hands of schoolchildren.