Deck the Halls with Plants and Pollinators

Northgate Honorable MentionFrom all of us here at Phipps, we hope your holidays are wonderful.  We also hope the winter vacation will give you a chance to get started on Challenge #3 (which is due in January).  Step 1: Research plants that live here in western Pennsylvania and choose one.  Step 2: Find out what little creature pollinates it. Step 3: Using colored pencils or a simple black pencil or ink, draw your best illustration of this plant and pollinator pair.   A panel of professional botanical artists will be judging your work, so be as accurate and artistic as you can.  (See Challenges in Depth for more specific requirements and due dates.)

Challenge #2 High School Winners Announced

One way that humans interact with plants is through the food they produce for us.  Challenge #2 photographs by high school students revealed this relationship in creative and original ways  Thanks to all who participated.  And the winners are:

1st Place: Gina Bao, North Allegheny Senior High School

2nd Place: Taylor Laffey and Anthony Zelina, Shaler Area High School

3rd Place: Tess Majewski, North Allegheny Intermediate High School

Great job, everyone! Now, remember to eat more kale!

Photos by middle schoolers depict the relationship between people and edible plants

Squash photoWe saw pumpkins growing, children happily gulping down a variety of fruits and vegetables and mint going from garden to teapot.  Those were among the images taken by our middle school Fairchild Challenge participants.  The judging panel comprised of photography experts and vegetable gardeners chose these as the winners:

1st Place: Bilquisu Abdullah, Syed Rizvi and Sean Bright, Shaffer Elementary 6th grade

2nd Place: Audrey Lyda, The Ellis School

3rd Place: Dylan Sparkenbaugh, David E. Williams Middle School

Special Merit “for personal story”: Panari Patel, Keystone Oaks Middle School

Special Merit “for storytelling”: Eddie Sheets, Shaler Area Middle School (including squash photo, above)

Congratulations to all 265 of our middle school photographers who took the challenge!  Winners will be invited to tell their stories on the Saturday Light Brigade radio show on Dec. 27.


Radio stars rise on December 27th

thMH52JZEDTop winners of the middle school Challenge #2: People and Edible Plants photo essays will be invited to appear live on the long-running family-friendly radio program, The Saturday Light Brigade,  on Saturday morning, December 27th at 10:35 a.m.    Enjoy what they have to say by tuning into WRCT, 88.3 fm  or listen online at slbradio.

Next Challenge: People and produce

As humans, our lives are entwined with vegetables and fruits and grains.  They keep us alive and healthy.  How do you visualize people’s relationship to edible plants?   For Challenge #2, you get to tell this story in 3 photographs.  You don’t have to have fancy photographic equipment to tell this story, either – just show us how you interpret this age-old relationship.   Your photo essay is due this  Friday, December 5th at 5 p.m. and we have a panel of prominent photography experts who can’t wait to see what you come up with!  (See “Challenges in Depth” for details and requirements.)   Vegetables

Teens shun social media and write about it!!

442 high school students participated in Challenge #1 and gave up technology for 24 hours.  Their essays were insighful on both, personal and global, levels.  And here are the winners:

1st Place: Liam Connolly, Gateway High School

2nd Place: Sydney Kaboly, Woodland Hills High School

3rd Place: Nereida Cowfer, A. W. Beattie Career Center

Special Merit Awards:

Gina Bao, North Allegheny Senior High School

Allison Ulven, Moon Area High School

Sarah Coyne, Seneca Valley Senior High School

Congratulations to ALL who took the challenge!


Middle School “Go Outside” Poems Inspired by Nature

And the winners of Challenge 1B are:

1st Place: Elsa Tonkinwise, The Ellis School*

2nd Place: Maggie Shissler, St. Sylvester School

3rd Place: Laura Schwendeman, Carson Middle School

Special Merit Awards:

Gianna Pasqualino, Shaffer Elementary/Woodland Hills Academy 6th grade

Jenna Miller, West Shamokin Jr/Sr High School

For Haiku: Kiera Harrell-Danks, The Ellis School

For largest number of participants (215!): David E. Williams Middle School


*1st Place: “A Smooth Blue Package” by Elsa Tonkinwise

My room cramped fake silent I need to get out away to the open the door swings free with a


The world hits me

so much life, alive

jump run dance

The grass is

soft warm tender

lie down


chip chip cip

a scattering of golden wood

Sweet berries

red pink red


Squirrels with

grey plumes of tails

leap follow sprint

So much to

smell hear taste touch


Stand back



The sky envelopes it all in a

smooth blue