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Posts Tagged ‘Miami Southridge Senior High School’

Ten students from the Ecology Club at Miami Southridge Senior High School put in a day’s work at Bee Heaven Farm. This was not just any kind of work day but an Environmental Immersion Day, as part of the Fairchild Challenge, sponsored by Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

On Thursday, November 3rd, ten students, their Ecology Club advisor, and the Challenge coordinator arrived bright and early in the morning. Farmer Margie gave them a tour of the farm, along with a explanation of organic farming practices that she follows. The kids were introduced to the vermicomposting setup by intern Eric Morales, and learned how to grow worms to make worm castings and worm tea, which are then used as fertilizer.

Farm intern Eric Morales teaches the ins and outs of the Worm Manor.

But the must important part of the day lay ahead. The students’ mission was to get rid of invasive, non-native plant species that had taken root in a buffer section planted with native plants. On the non-native hit list were long pesky

Non-native jasmine vine

vines of a sweet smelling but totally invasive variety of jasmine, a variety of morning glory, and wild petunia with purple flowers. Although these plants look pretty when they bloom, they can quickly overwhelm the natives by competing for light and space.

The non-natives had put down long runners that threaded through and on top of cabbage palm, coontie and and other native plants in the buffer area. Those vines are tough to remove. You can’t just grab and pull on it, and expect it to come up. You have to grab one end and start working your way back to the root, then dig a bit to pull it out, or the whole plant will grow back.

Non-native morning glory

Margie carefully pointed out the difference between the non-native jasmine leaves which had a pointed tip, and a very similar native plant which had smaller leaves with a rounded tip. An albizia, or woman’s tongue, tree was attacked by students with loppers and a pruning saw. They hacked it into chunks, loaded them into a wheelbarrow, and wheeled it to the compost heap. Part of a shrubby Brazilian pepper suffered a similar fate.

Farmer Margie shows how to attack Brazilian pepper.

The students were accompanied by the Ecology Club mentor, Jennifer DeHart, who teaches AP environmental science at Southridge. She picked students who were the most active in the club to participate in this day’s Challenge. Her ten

Non-native albizia or woman's tongue tree

students worked hard, sometimes in a drizzling rain, and cleared out a good bit of “bad” plants by the end of their day. Most importantly, they learned a bit more about plants, worms and organic farming — and what to do about a wasp sting.

Non-native wild petunias

Also on hand was Challenge coordinator Marion Litzinger, from Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. She explained that the Fairchild Challenge is a free school program to get kids involved in hands-on activities alongside scientists or growers. The goal is to reconnect kids with nature and the environment, Marion explained. Students win points based on doing different Challenges throughout the school year, and all the points add up to winning varying amounts of money for their school, as much as $1000, meant for improving the environmental situation at the school.

For more information about the Fairchild Challenge, contact Marion Litzinger at 305-667-1651 ext. 3356 or mlitzinger@fairchildgarden.org.

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