Eco-scientist skits and mini-musicals get the applause they earned!

Panelists at workWe asked our middle school participants to do a very challenging task: research the life and work of an environmental scientist and create a skit or musical theater piece around that person, and say it all in 3 minutes or less.  The judges (a celebrated Pittsburgh playwright, an actor and director, the science theater coordinator for the Carnegie Science Center and a well-known local environmental scholar and researcher) applauded the mini-productions (and learned lots of new information from the videos, too).  All 300+ students who helped to create the entries deserve congratulations, and here are the winners:

1st Place: Carson Middle School for an original opera about Tim Jarvis, Climate Crusader

2nd Place: Burgettstown Middle School for their take on environmental pioneer, Rachel Carson

3rd Place: Shaler Area Middle School for the story of Julia “Butterfly” Hill

(Some students from the schools above will appear on the Saturday Light Brigade radio program on April 4th at 10:35 a.m.   You can listen in at 88.3 fm WRCT or online at

Special Merit Awards go to:

David E. Williams Middle School for a Rachel Carson musical

Dickson Elementary for the adventures of climate scientist, James Hansen

The Ellis School for a heartfelt musical about Kenyan activist, Wangari Maathai

We’re ahead of the curve…

Following our lead of eco-scientist graphic novels, the Scottish Book Trust has published a graphic novel biography of the conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club called John Muir, Earth—Planet, Universe!  For details, go to (Wonder if anyone has done “John Muir: the mini-musical” yet?)

Come Celebrate with Us

kids-dance-party-clip-art-dance2[1]We can’t wait to celebrate your fabulous efforts to connect with nature, raise awareness about environmental issues and do something to benefit our planet.  We’re holding this year’s Fairchild Challenge Awards Ceremonies at Phipps on:

Tuesday, May 19 for Middle Schools


Wednesday, May 20 for High Schools

Mark your calendar now, and we’ll keep you posted.

Time to Show Off Pittsburgh’s Green Features

Green Roof at Phipps by Denmarsh Photography

Green Roof at Phipps
by Denmarsh Photography

Believe it or not, many people outside of Pittsburgh still think of us as a smokey-skied steel town. We know that couldn’t be further from the truth.  In fact, “green” initiatives and sustainable practices to create a healthier environment are all over the place.  For High School Challenge #5, we’re asking you  to make a multimedia presentation that shows some of Pittsburgh’s sustainability initiatives to the world (literally, if you put your presentation up on the web).  For details, see HS Challenges in Depth, Challenge 5.  (Good news: The deadline has been moved to Friday, April 3rd.)

Green Roof at Phipps

Green Roof at Phipps

The pros are blown away by the graphic novels!


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The Challenge: to create a graphic novel based on the life and work of a notable environmental scientist-as-superhero.  We had two professional artist/cartoonists, one scientist and one environmental educator in to judge the Eco-scientist/Superhero Graphic Novels.  The panel was so impressed with the creativity, skill and effort that went into making these amazing fusions of information, inspiration and comic art.  Congratulations going out to all who dared to attempt this challenging task.  And here are the winners:

1st Place: Tess Christensen and Sebastian Immonen, North Allegheny Intermediate High School

2nd Place: Yesun Kaplan and Melody MacFarland, A. W. Beattie Career Center

3rd Place (tie): Maura Brennen, West Mifflin Area High School

Casey Hoel, North Allegheny Senior High School

Special Merit Awards:

Miciah Foster, Morgan McArdle-Shultz, Perry Rusen-Morohovich, Margaret Booth, Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 “for Poetic Imagining”

Miranda Miller, Woodland Hills High School “for Future Cartoonist”

Justin Gilbert and Noah Lemley, West Greene Middle Senior High School “for Comic Style and Humor”

2 cartoonists and a scientist review the winning entries

2 cartoonists and a scientist review the winning entries


Environmental Action Challenge suggestions

If you’re not sure how to approach the final challenge of the year, the Environmental Action Challenge, you can find some suggestions here (or just look under the “About” column above).in good hands You’re certainly not limited to this list, but it might be a helpful place to start, and you’ll want to start thinking about this now even though it’s not due until May 1st.