Students help reestablish rare and endangered native orchids

Forty five students from Jose Marti MAST 6-12 Academy in Hialeah participated in the first group of school orchid outplantings at their school on May 15 as part of Fairchild Garden’s Million Orchid Project.

The Million Orchid Project, with a goal to reestablish rare and endangered native orchids throughout public spaces in South Florida, has been incorporated into the Fairchild Challenge, the successful multidisciplinary education program for 125,000 public and private K-12 students in 270 schools in Miami.

Jason Dowling of Fairchild Garden taught freshmen and juniors how to attach newly grown Florida cowhorn orchids to oak and buttonwood trees at the school using burlap twine, a natural fiber.

“The biggest benefit of this project for the students is that they can participate in authentic science,” said Andrew Kearns, Mathematics Department chair and Green Club member at Jose Marti MAST Academy.

An added benefit for students was taking a break out of their testing schedule to “decompress” while doing the outplantings, according to Yvette Diaz-Rubio, assistant principal.

Beginning in the late 1800s, native orchids were torn from the trees they grew on and were shipped across the U.S. to those who coveted their exotic-looking blooms. Now, the number of native orchids in the wild is low. Fairchild Garden’s goal, with the help of schools and other community partners, is one million orchids over the next five years.

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