Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden successfully hosted a live, in-flight Education Downlink with NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) dueing the morning of Apr. 25. NASA is marking the Year of Education on the ISS during 2018.
“This was an incredible honor and a fantastic educational opportunity for our students,” said Carl Lewis, PhD, Fairchild’s director, who welcomed the astronauts and all Miami-Dade County students and residents watching online. “We are the world’s first botanic garden to host an ISS downlink, which underscores the importance that plants have always had in exploration.”
Fairchild supporters, community members and approximately 250 students from BioTECH @ Richmond Heights, G. Holmes Braddock Senior High School and Mater Lakes Academy interacted with astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel through a question-and-answer session.
During the 20-minute downlink, students asked 14 questions with topics that included the role of plants in future space exploration, research being done on the ISS to go to Mars and the challenges that astronauts overcome living and working in space.
The downlink was broadcast and streamed live on NASA TV and NASA’s website. Before the downlink, Fairchild hosted a video teleconference with NASA plant scientists from Kennedy Space Center and displayed demonstrations of student research projects including various space plants. “Through Fairchild’s Growing Beyond Earth partnership with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, middle and high school students are helping select food plants that might be appropriate for growing aboard spacecraft,” said Amy Padolf, Fairchild’s director of education. “Someday the plants identified by our students may help feed astronauts on the way to Mars.”
BioTECH, Fairchild’s affiliated public magnet high school, is the world’s only high school with a curriculum focused on botany. Its students conduct research at Fairchild as part of the Growing Beyond Earth program, studying plants under conditions that simulate the plant habitats aboard ISS.
Extending from early childhood through advanced graduate studies, Fairchild’s education is aimed at recruiting future science leaders and training a new generation of professionals in botany. Fairchild’s K-12 programs engage 300 public and private schools and 200,000 students.
Established in 1938 and comprising 83 acres, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to exploring, explaining and conserving the world of tropical plants. The world-renowned plant collections feature palms, cycads, orchids, tropical fruit trees and more. Fairchild has the largest education program of any metropolitan area, reaching more than 200,000 schoolchildren each year with environmental programs like The Fairchild Challenge. It aims to inspire a greater knowledge and love for plants and gardening so that all can enjoy the beauty and bounty of the tropical world. Special events include Chocolate, Mango, and Orchid festivals in addition to an annual art exhibition, concerts, plant sales and more.
For more information, visit www.fairchildgarden.org