Saturday, March 31, 2012

Olympic Wreath Competition Awards Ceremony

On March 9th, I traveled to Key Largo School for a morning much anticipated by 7th grade students in the classes of Ms. Burson, Ms. Prew, and Ms. Delgado. I last saw the students in December, when I helped them identify many of the plants they had brought in as potentials to use in their wreaths - it was great to see them having such a great time with the wreath-making process. After the students completed their wreaths and essays, the teachers selected eleven of the finest in late January to send to Kona Kai for judging to determine which five wreaths/essays would be sent to London for the final round of judging, the winning submissions of which will be displayed during the 2012 Olympic Games. That March 9th morning, I was to announce and present awards to those students whose entries were being sent to London.
I had quite a crowd waiting and the anticipation was so thick you couldn't even cut it with a bandsaw.
Before getting into that, let me give you a bit of background as to what happened between January and March, leading up to the awards ceremony. After receiving the eleven chosen entries, we worked to put together a panel of judges as I began the objective process of evaluating each submission for its satisfaction of required criteria, checking to make sure: the wreath is made only of plants; a minimum of three plants are used in the wreath; correct common and scientific names are given for each plant; the plants used are representative of southern Florida (the Keys in particular); a conservation message is included for one plant; and a 500 word rationale is provided for plant choices. On February 23rd, we brought in our panel of judges, which included Jon Olsen, our local 5-time Olympic medal-winner; Connie Chapell, an esteemed local educational consultant; and Ronnie Harris, our own artistic expert here at Kona Kai. After a couple long and grueling hours of careful and meticulous evaluation, our judges had selected the Top Five wreaths to send to London, based on averages of their scores using a detailed standard rubric put together by BGCI and Fairchild, encompassing both wreath design and essay quality.
Our judges hard at work, and me - probably doodling epic wreath designs.
We now had our winners and were ready to set up an awards ceremony at Key Largo School, which brings us back up to March 9th. To start off the ceremony, I recognized each of the students involved in the eleven submissions to Kona Kai (which all met the requirements) by calling them up individually and presenting them with a family day-pass to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden:
The students involved in the eleven submissions sent to Kona Kai, sporting their Fairchild passes.
After this, it was time for me to announce the Top 5 entries that were selected to be sent to London; the moment the students were looking forward to since December, no doubt with countless sleepless nights and almost unbearable suspense, which you have likely been experiencing as well. I'm happy to say you can look forward to a good rest tonight because here are the winners from the Kona Kai judging, whose wreaths and essays have been submitted to and received by BGCI in London to await the final round of judging (photos by Patricia Joy of Key Largo School):

In a tie for 4th/5th place - Luis De La Fuente (pictured on left) / Victoria Ellis (pictured on right), Nick Perez and Jerryck Ornelas

3rd place - Amy Warnaar (pictured) and Taryn McCain

2nd Place - Brittney Doyle (pictured), Lauren Leach and Hannah Boehm

1ST PLACE - Bridget Welsh (pictured) and Emily O'Connor

In addition to our Top 5, we also had an Honorable Mention done by Bailey Williams, Haylee Curry and Elise Anderson. 
The judges gave Awards of Merit to a select few entries as well:
-For wreath design and presentation - Eric Kruger and Tyler Prenesti
-For most traditional / authentic Olympic-style wreath - Lauren McCormick
-Judges' favorite essay - Hanna Boehm, Brittney Doyle and Lauren Leach
-Judges' favorite wreath - Bridget Welsh and Emily O'Connor
The students who were involved in the making of the Top 5 entries received, in addition to the Fairchild family day-passes, a native Florida thatch palm seedling from our Gardens and a certificate (the demand for which can only be accurately likened to that for Golden Tickets to Wonka's chocolate factory) for each student and a guest to join me for an ethnobotanic tour of the Gardens here at Kona Kai. Here's a final picture of students involved in the Top 5 entries, along with the three teachers (L-R Ms. Burson, Ms. Prew, Ms. Delgado) who participated in this year's Competition:

Our first try at bringing one of the Fairchild Challenges to schools here in the Keys ended up being a great success for all involved. I should be hearing from London about the results from the final judging in May or June (more suspense!), so I'll be sure to post when I hear back from them. In the meantime, we're looking forward to the "challenges" next school year may bring!

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director

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