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Tradewinds Middle School students growing endangered orchids

Posted: 12:43 PM, Mar 19, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-19 18:02:41-04
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GREENACRES, Fla. — Tradewinds Middle School students in Greenacres are helping to protect paradise by growing and planting an endangered flower back into our environment.

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The OrKIDS Project is in conjunction with Florida Atlantic University's Pine Jog Environmental Education Center.

Science teacher Melissa Atkins works with her students on the hands-on project.

"The kids are in charge of doing everything with the project," said Atkins. "Once the orchids come in, the kids do daily data collections. This is the butterfly orchid, it is an endangered orchid. FAU Pine Jog has the right permits to raise them, to propagate them.”

Then the students do the rest.

They watch the orchids grow in their containers, then deflask them, or take them out of the containers, clean and measure them, and put them in growing trays.

The students love getting involved in science, Atkins said, and seeing how it connects to everyday life.

"The students are able to make that connection to science to real life," said Atkins. "Kids tend to struggle with science. They see it as something either they can’t do, or they see it as something that may be boring. So by participating in this program they see how math is part of science, they see how science can be hands on, they see this is relevant in the world. So they’re able to make that connection to their community and hopefully some of them will start getting that bug and get interested in botany or science and take that with them when they go to high school and into the future."

When the orchids are ready in a couple of months, the students will plant them on trees outside around campus, but it will take some time before they see any flowers.

"We are waiting for them to bloom," Atkins said. "They can take about three to five years, so we’re hoping we’re at the end of the first third year and were waiting for them to start to bloom."

Atkins added she’s proud the students are helping the environment at the same time.

"The orchids are here for a reason. They’re part of our ecosystem, so whatever we can do to help get them into their proper places, we can do," said Atkins.

Student Luis Navarrete enjoys working on the project.

"It kind of gives you an educational lesson while you are doing what you’re doing. So at the same time you are working, but you are still getting fun out of it," said Navarrete.

Some students get so invested in the project, they give the orchids names, Atkins said.

The OrKIDS Project is just one way Tradewinds Middle School is working to protect paradise. They also have a school garden, strong recycling program, and much more.

The students planted some orchids at the school district headquarters as well.

Tradewinds Middle School is one of several schools in the district that participates in the program.

Atkins said that because students are now out of school until at least April 15 due to the coronavirus, the orchids will now have to go back to FAU.

To learn more about the OrKIDS Project, click here.