Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden on Friday unveiled its state-of-the-art STEMLab, a mobile tissue laboratory created in partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
The mobile lab, created inside a decommissioned school bus, will travel to different schools to give students a chance to work in the lab by growing their own orchids as part of Fairchild’s Million Orchid Project.
Assisting Fairchild staff and working in the lab at the unveiling were students from BioTECH, the first botany magnet high school in the United States and located in Miami.
“This lab will allow us to bring the science, technology, engineering and math of our Million Orchid Project to communities throughout Miami-Dade,” Fairchild’s director, Dr. Carl Lewis, said at the unveiling.
The Million Orchid Project is a five-year restoration project with a goal of growing orchids throughout South Florida.
University of Miami’s School of Architecture’s Design/Build students came up with the plan and constructed the lab.
The ribbon cutting was a little different for this unveiling. Instead of a ribbon, a clerodendrum vine was cut by Fairchild staff, Miami-Dade County Public Schools officials and students, and University of Miami educators.
Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said at the unveiling: “It’s so great to be here at Fairchild to celebrate a momentous occasion not only for this community but for the entire county. It is not lost to us the importance that STEM plays in our every day lives and is at an all time high. I am happy that it is Miami-Dade County Public Schools that brings this idea to the forefront of educational opportunity in our community. This is a bus that will bring hope and opportunity to every corner of our county. This is what dreams are about.”
While students were preparing the lab so people could see inside, Fairchild’s Magnet School Program Coordinator Thad Foote sang a song with his guitar dedicated to this project.
“We’re really excited,” said Amy Padolf, Fairchild’s director of education. “The exciting part is yet to come because we are going to take it out to schools starting this fall. These orchids will then be in their schoolyard and they will have grown them. Our goal is to get science in the hands of all these kids and our community. But giving them an opportunity to learn how to communicate their science so they learn how to talk about it.”