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Fairchild Challenge at Phipps: Challenge #5 Winners Announced!
May 02

Fairchild Challenge at Phipps: Challenge #5 Winners Announced!

By Jennifer Torrance, Science Education Coordinator

Thank you to the many schools that submitted entries for Challenge #5!  These challenges were titled “Seeds, Stories and Science” for elementary school, “Homegrown Culture” for middle school and “Heirlooms for Whom?” for high school students.


Elementary School

Elementary school students were challenged to think about what makes seeds so unique and important with this challenge! Kindergarten and first grade created storybooks about seeds describing the shape, size, and color of seeds from different plants. Second and third grade created comic books about seed germination showing how different seeds turns into a plant. They explored how seeds require different environmental factors, such as cold stratification or wildfire, to germinate. Fourth and fifth grade researched ways that seeds can travel (wind, water, animals, etc) and made comic strips illustrating one method of seed dispersal. We were impressed and inspired by these students’ creativity and curiosity! Congratulations to the elementary schools that participated. Here are a few of our favorites:

First Grader from Edgewood Elementary: Ailen Hoffman


Third Graders from Turtle Creek STEAM Academy: Hossein Kamali, Isaac Rihn, Naomi Robertson, and Nate Willson


Third Grader  from Tenth Street School: Quinn Macher


Fiftth Grader from Acmetonia Elementary: Ella Trifanoff


Middle School

Middle schoolers were challenged to think about how food is tied to our heritage. Many of our unique family recipes go beyond the usual ingredients, and these ingredients we add to our cooking can have deep personal meaning to us. They created videos about family recipes or foods from their culture or heritage, highlighting unique ingredients and discussing what makes these foods special. Many students interviewed family members about this food’s importance to them, too, and shared memories of eating or making this food with people they love.

The winning submission came from Adelaide Seigworth, Elinor Kim, Niamh Greer, Keelin McKiernan, and Autumn Mandel from North Hills Middle School! These students went above and beyond, creating an incredibly touching video that incorporated dishes from 3 of their heritages and included interviews with family members. They will be awarded the annual Patti Burns Prize for Excellence in Communication and Media and funding for environmental and sustainability initiatives. You can watch their lovely video here! 


High School

Heirloom fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes are the antiques of the plant world. They preserve parts of our heritage and have incredible, and sometimes complicated, histories. High schoolers were challenged is to pick an heirloom food that they found interesting and create artwork of it resembling a vintage seed packet in style. Here’s the catch: they had to draw the heirloom food as an antique or old object! Accompanying the artwork, students submitted a description of the heirloom including its unique characteristics, where it originated from, what cultures first began growing it, and how it has travelled between cultures.


First Place: Shaler Area High School; Sophia Duty


Second Place: Shaler Area High School; Anna Lenartova, Caty Clark, Maggie Rea, Abby Guiste


Third Place: Penn-Trafford High School; Kate Malley and Delena Steimer


Special Merit: West Mifflin Area High School; Aubrie Heckert and Emmy Hilligsberg


Special Merit: West Mifflin Area High School; Julie Lazar


We would like to give a special shout out to our incredible panelists: Corey Flynn, Trudy Morrison, Anna Bagwell, Emmaline Hubbs, Tess Monks, Kiah Boudreau, Maris Altieri, and Denise Joseph. Thank you all for lending us your time and expertise!


Have questions? Contact Jennifer Torrance at or 412/622-6915, ext. 3230.


Developed by the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, Fl., and adopted by Phipps as a satellite partner in 2008, The Fairchild Challenge offers a menu of interdisciplinary challenges for grades K-5, 6-8 and  9-12, attracting students of diverse interests, abilities, talents and backgrounds. The Challenge empowers young people to engage in civic life and encourages them to become energetic and knowledgeable members of their communities.


Photographs taken by Phipps’ Research and Science Education staff.