Final Challenge of the Year due May 1st!

This is the challenge where you really can and do make a difference:the Environmental Action Challenge.  This is your chance to document the steps you’ve taken at home, at school or in the community to raise environmental awareness and to actually help improve our local environment.   (Plus it’s your chance to earn 350 points and involve lots of students.)  By now, your projects are running or are finished and it’s just a matter of documenting them. See our MS or HS Challenges in Depth for requirements.   All submissions are due by Friday, May 1st at 5 p.m.  We can’t wait to see what inspiring work you’ve done to better our planet!!

Global Challenge being judged at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

DSC_0007This year’s Global Challenge, Plant/Pollinator drawings, are currently being judged at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, FL.  Yes – we actually sent your precious works of art down Miami way to be seen in all their glorious detail.  Winners should be announced soon.  Meanwhile, the popular vote competition continues on Facebook through April 30th.  If you haven’t voted yet, here are the links for the high school and middle school competitions.

High School:

Middle School:

Please note: here in the Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes Art Gallery, we will have our top 18 entries on display from May 8 through August 10.



High Schools showcase “Sustainable Pittsburgh”

Green buildings, repurposed buildings, urban vegetable gardens, and clean energy – they’re all here in the Pittsburgh region and our HS Challenge #5 participants bragged about them beautifully in their multimedia presentations.  The judges included experts from Pittsburgh environmental organizations: Penn Future, Sustainable Pittsburgh, and The Green Building Alliance, as well as local environmental documentary filmmaker, Kirsi Jansa.  And the winners are:

1st Place: Shayla Nguyen, Kim Yurasits, Alyssa Wohlfarth and Leah Lebrew from Shaler Area High School

2nd Place: Audrey Immonen and Jessica Brandon from North Allegheny Senior High School

3rd Place: Gianmarco Frezza, Central Catholic High School (his video is here:)

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