A creative explosion of scientific know-how engineered by its inaugural freshmen class on Apr. 21, a day before Earth Day, marked the colorful and creative dedication of Terra Environmental Research Institute, Miami- Dade County’s first “Green” high school.
Among the initial 400 ninth grade students at the Kendall school were paper-clad butterflies; a walking snail; $5,000 working robot demonstration, and three students covered with plastic bags, reminding visitors to properly dispose of non-recyclable materials. These were among working exhibits of environmental research, engineering technology and biomedical research, Terra’s three academic disciplines.
“When I was greeted on the sidewalk by 500 walking trash bags, I knew this school would do something entirely out of the ordinary to host a dedication,” smiled Miami- Dade Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho during an address in the school’s cafetorium.
“I became even more positive when I had my blood pressure taken by a student biological team. Not only that, this has to be the first school serving drinks at its dedication,” he added, toasting the audience with a paper cup of peach-infused tea, an environmentally conscious refreshment. All of his comments drew appreciable chuckles from more than 200 school administrators, teachers, school board members and educational VIPs that included visitors from Japan and German consulates observing Miami-Dade’s first LEED-certified magnet high school.
“The real celebration here is the magic of teachers,” Carvalho concluded somewhat pointedly, alluding to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s recent veto of legislation opposed by most educators that would have eliminated teacher tenure.
“Seeing this school today, you would never know its concept began with a meeting four years ago to discuss how to relieve overcrowding at Killian and Palmetto Senior High,” recalled Miami-Dade School Board District 7 member Ana Rivas- Logan. “Parents were then adamant against transferring students out of their neighborhoods. Now, we count 1,800 applications for the next 400 seats, including Killian and Palmetto students waiting to get into Terra in the future.”
Adding her praise was Region Four superintendent Janet Hupp who complimented the “skilled work of Silva Architects of Coral Gables that transformed the prototype of a new middle school on the grounds of MacArthur School into a setting for three scientific academies, the foundation for Terra’s unique study program.”
Terra principal Caridad Montano, who has guided the day-to-day fortune of the school through its first year, credited its energetic students, “supported by their parents and a team of very special teachers and administrators who made a school like this a reality.” Just before noon, Montano joined school board members and Carvalho to cut a ribbon made of palm fibers, using natural rather than manufactured material that would waste resources.