Community Voices

New media center gifted to Miami Gardens Elementary School

Parents, teachers and students greet Orange Bowl mascot Obie at the opening of the updated media center at Miami Gardens Elementary, the Miami-Dade County winning school of the Orange Bowl Media Center Makeover Project.
Parents, teachers and students greet Orange Bowl mascot Obie at the opening of the updated media center at Miami Gardens Elementary, the Miami-Dade County winning school of the Orange Bowl Media Center Makeover Project. Orange Bowl Committee

Students, teachers and parents of students at Miami Gardens Elementary School are celebrating the beginning of the school year, and the gift of a state-of-the-art media center.

The school is one of three in South Florida to get a fully funded updated center as part of the Orange Bowl’s Media Center Makeover Project.

North Grade Elementary School in Lake Worth was chosen as the Palm Beach County recipient; Sea Castle Elementary School was selected in Broward County.

“The Orange Bowl Media Center Makeover Project, powered by Extra Yard for Teachers, reinforces the Orange Bowl’s mission to support and serve the South Florida community,” Orange Bowl Committee president and chair Sean Pittman said in a release.

“These updated media centers feature state-of-the-art equipment and technology and will give students and teachers optimal opportunity to achieve academic success,” Pittman said.

The three schools were chosen from among 110 in the three counties that submitted entries to get the media center makeover. The new centers were unveiled at the start of this school year.

All three schools received “new modernized classroom furniture that makes for a more inviting and exciting learning environment,” including bookshelves, tables, desks, chairs and soft, colorful seating for reading and creative spaces.

Extra Yard for Teachers, the College Football Playoff (CFP) Foundation’s community platform, has been accomplishing similar projects since 2013. The CFP Foundation and its partners have donated $20 million to national education initiatives that have helped 152,000 teachers and 4.6 million students. The Foundation’s website lists support to 20,500 schools.

“We are thrilled to be able to extend our partnership with the Orange Bowl to include these amazing learning centers,” CFP Foundation executive director Britton Banowsky said in a release. “These innovative makeovers will make a positive impact on teachers and students for many years to come.”

The elementary school media centers serve as the information hub where students can read, check out books and use computers. Faculty, staff and parents will also see the benefit of the updates when they have meetings and training sessions in the centers.

CFP Foundation partner School Specialty completed the installations.

“We are passionate about supporting our teachers and students in South Florida and around the country with modern, engaging and safe spaces for learning,” Michael A. Yorio, SSI Guardian president, said in a release.

For more on the 2018-19 Orange Bowl events, including volunteer opportunities through the Ambassador Program, visit

Books, birds and boats

Celebrate reading by visiting and donating a book at The Barnacle Historic State Park’s “Books, Birds & Boats” event from noon to 3 p.m. Sept. 9 at 3485 Main Highway, Coconut Grove.

Admission is $2; free for kids under 6. The fee is waived for anyone who brings a library card, a library book, or a new or gently used book to donate.

Children can enjoy activities, games with prizes and storybook reading at the literacy-focused event. The Barnacle Society’s new Little Free Library will be dedicated during the celebration.

Picnic lunches and well-behaved pets on hand-held leashes not exceeding 6 feet in length are welcome. Alcohol is not allowed in the park.

The Barnacle Society is a nonprofit organization created to help preserve and financially support the historic site. For more information, call 305-442-6866 or visit

Endangered species exhibit

Learn more about the Schaus swallowtail butterfly, the Eastern indigo snake, the American crocodile and the 14 other endangered species that live at Biscayne National Park at two environmental art exhibits at the Hibiscus Gallery in Pinecrest Gardens, 11000 Red Road.

This gallery event is open through Sept. 3.

The exhibits, “Endangered World: Biscayne National Park” and “80.15W,” are by artist-in-residence Xavier Cortada, who seeks to highlight endangered species at the park and internationally.

Cortada has presented works around the world. Some of his achievements include working with scientists and cultural groups to produce collaborative eco-art in Taiwan, Hawaii and Holland; peace murals in Cyprus and Northern Ireland; child welfare murals in Bolivia and Panama; AIDS murals in Switzerland and South Africa; and environmental art installations at the North and South Poles.

Cortada and Biscayne National Park ranger Gary Bremen spoke about the work at the recent opening reception.

The “80.15W” exhibit includes haunting works that represent the 17 endangered animals. Guests can look at the artwork and see their reflections in the dark carbon paper under glass. The paper represents the “carbon footprint” impact people have had on animals and their environment. Find out more at

Are you a Miami pioneer?

Members of the Miami Pioneers and Natives of Dade took a summer break, but now the club is ready to start up again. Join them at a meeting to learn more about South Florida and its history.

Christine Rupp, executive director of Dade Heritage Trust, will be the guest speaker at the next meeting, 2:30-4 p.m. Sept. 9 in the Community Room of Central Christian Church, 222 Menores Ave., Coral Gables.

After the Labor Day exception, meetings are the first Sunday of each month. To learn more, visit

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at