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Welcome to the middle 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: A Stroll Through the North Pole
For individuals or groups | Maximum points: 200
Due Date: Fri., Oct. 21, 2022 by 5 p.m. 

Download the Challenge 1 Rubric Here

Your Challenge:

As the days get cooler, you may notice birds and butterflies migrating south to escape the coming cold, but for some animals, the ideal location is a place with snow and ice year-round: the Arctic! Your challenge is to create a set of 3 to 10 small Arctic animal sculptures made entirely out of “found objects” and recycled materials. Make sure the animals you choose actually live in the Arctic. (Penguins live in the Antarctic!) Along with each sculpture, please develop a conservation plan for each animal. Conservation plans detail actions we can take to preserve and protect animals, plants, and their habitats. Consider the factors that threaten animals and what people can do to address these threats. We often hear about the polar bear population declining as the ice caps melt, but many other animals in the Arctic are effected by the changing climate and human activities, too. Your conservation plan should include relevant information about the animal, such as the current population, food sources, habitat, interactions with humans and other species in their community, and any other resources they need to survive. The conservation plan should be your own work and should include a Works Cited with at least 3 sources. There are conservation plan examples and other information sources listed below. 

Finished sculptures should be no larger than 5”x5”x5” and weigh no more than 2lbs. 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 must have a securely-fastened string or wire so that it can be hung on display.

Schools are welcome to submit additional well-made arctic animal sculptures for the opportunity to be displayed in the Winter Flower Show. These additional sculptures should be submitted in a separate container from the sculptures that are being judged for the Fairchild Challenge and clearly marked “Display Only.” A limited number of sculptures will be displayed.

Entry Requirements:

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

  • Challenge Entry Form
  • 3 - 10 sculptures of Arctic animals made from found or recycled materials. Each finished sculpture should be no larger than 5”x5”x5”, should weigh no more than two pounds and should have a securely-fastened string or wire to be hung on display.
  • For each Arctic animal you sculpt, submit a short paper detailing an original conservation plan for that creature. The paper should be 1-2 pages with 12 point font and 1-inch margins (or 3-6 handwritten pages), and it should include a Works Cited with at least 3 sources


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 each grade level for Challenge 1 of the Middle School Fairchild Challenge

  • Grade Six – Eight

    • 4.5.6.D Identify reasons why organisms become threatened, endangered, and extinct.
    • 3.1.6.A1 Describe the similarities and differences of major physical characteristics in plants, animals, fungi, protists, and bacteria.
    • 3.1.6.A5 Describe basic structures that plants and animals have that contribute to their ability to make or find food and reproduce.
    • 4.1.7.A Describe the relationships between biotic and abiotic components of an ecosystem.
      • Compare and contrast different biomes and their characteristics
      • Describe symbiotic and predator/prey relationships
    • 4.1.7.D Explain how biological diversity relates to the viability of ecosystems.
      • Explain how an adaptation is an inherited, structure, function, or behavior that helps an organism survive and reproduce.
    • 4.5.7.C Explain how human actions affect the health of the environment.
    • 3.1.7.A1 Describe the similarities and differences of physical characteristics in diverse organisms.
    • 3.1.7.C2 Explain why the extinction of a species may occur when the environment changes.
    • 4.5.8.A Explain how Best Management Practices (BMP) can be used to mitigate environmental problems.
    • 3.1.8.A8 Change and Consistency: Explain mechanisms organisms use to adapt to their environment.
    • 9.1.8.A Know and use the elements and principles of each art form to create works in the arts and humanities.
    • 9.1.8.B Recognize, know, use and demonstrate a variety of appropriate arts elements and principles to produce, review and revise original works in the arts.
    • CC.3.5.6-8.A Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.
    • CC.3.5.6-8.B Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
    • CC.1.2.6.A Determine the central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
    • CC.1.2.6.B Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences and/or generalizations drawn from the text.
    • CC.1.2.6.G Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g. visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.
    • CC.1.2.6.J Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
    • CC.1.2.7.B Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences, conclusions, and/or generalizations drawn from the text.

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