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Welcome to the high school challenge page for Challenge 1 of the Fairchild Challenge! Read below to find challenge information, entry requirements, resources and more for the challenge.

Challenge 1: Biological Sculpture

Title: Nature’s Sparkle and Shine
For individuals or groups | Maximum points: 200
Due Date: Fri., Oct. 22, 2021 by 5 p.m. 

Download the challenge rubric here

Your Challenge:

Have you ever found yourself fascinated by the shiny parts of nature? From snake scales to sea shells to butterfly wings to bird feathers, iridescence is all around us. For this challenge, you will inspire others with the beauty and importance of nature by creating a glittering sculpture of your own! Create a small sculpture of an iridescent creature made entirely out of “found objects” and recycled materials. The more sparkle and shine you can add to your sculpture, the better! Along with this visual representation, please include a 1-2 page written description of the creature you chose to sculpt. Please describe where the iridescence occurs on the organism and explain the possible role or purpose of its iridescence, if applicable. You must explain the difference between pigments and the physical and/or chemical characteristics that create iridescence.

Each finished sculpture should be no larger than 5”x5”x5” and should weigh no more than two pounds.  Sculptures should not contain any food or edible ingredients (including wheat, seeds, or pinecones).  Select sculptures from this challenge will be featured in Phipps’ Winter Flower Show. Therefore, each sculpture should have a string, wire or other attachment so that it can be hung on display.

Entry Requirements:
Deliver to the science education coordinator at Phipps in person or via certified mail (electronic submission is not accepted).

  • Challenge Entry Form
  • ​Create a sculpture using found or recycled materials of an organism that displays iridescence.
  • Each finished sculpture should be no larger than 5”x5”x5” and should weigh no more than two pounds, and should have a string, wire or other attachment to be hung on display.
  • Write a short description of your sculpture that is no longer than 1 – 2 pages with 1-inch margins.
  • Clearly describe the physical and/or chemical components that create iridescence in your creature. Be sure to address the difference between iridescence and pigments. Describe where and how the iridescence occurs and explain the possible role or purpose of iridescence, if known.
  • Include the school name and the participating students’ names.
  • If mailing a copy to the Conservatory, please use the address below: 


Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
The Fairchild Challenge c/o Jennifer Torrance
One Schenley Park
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

The following list of online resources may be used when preparing your entry.


Read below to find the standards for Challenge 1 of the High School Fairchild Challenge

  • Grades Nine – Twelve

    • 3.1.10.A1: Explain the characteristics of life common to all organisms.
    • 3.1.10.C1: Explain the mechanisms of biological evolution.
    • 3.1.12.C2: Analyze how genotypic and phenotypic variation can result in adaptations that influence an organism’s success in an environment.
    • 9.1.12.C: Integrate and apply advanced vocabulary to the arts forms.
    • 9.1.12.B: Recognize, know, use and demonstrate a variety of appropriate arts elements and principles to produce, review and revise original works in the arts.
    • 9.1.12.E: Delineate a unifying theme through the production of a work of art that reflects skills in media processes and techniques.
    • CC.3.5.9-10.A: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the precise details of explanations or descriptions.
    • CC.3.5.11-12.G: Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
    • CC.3.6.11-12.F: Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
    • CC.3.5.11-12.I: Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.
    • CC.3.6.9-10.B: Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes […]
    • CC.1.4.9-10.A: Write informative/ explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately.
    • CC.3.5.11-12.B: Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.
    • CC.3.6.11-12.C: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
    • CC.1.4.9-10.C: Develop and analyze the topic with relevant, well-chosen, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic; include graphics and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
    • CC.1.4.9-10.F: Demonstrate a grade-appropriate command of the conventions of standard English grammar, usage, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.

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