What a great way to learn about the plants and animals of the Florida Keys, find ways to protect our environment and support our island ecosystem. Twelve middle- and high-school students will have the opportunity this school year to participate in a collaborative STEM program between the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden and the Monroe County School District.

The program, which will accept six middle school students and six high school students, kicks off at 3 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 19, at the Garden, 5210 College Road. Interested students must complete the guided research application form and submit it for consideration by the Garden and school district. Successful applicants will be notified of their acceptance prior to Sept. 19.

The Key West Botanical Garden Society has a long history collaborating with the Monroe County School District to benefit our students. In 2011, the Botanical Garden introduced a Science Fair for local students that researched environmental issues through the scientific process. The school district found this event so beneficial that it has been transitioned into an official district event and is now part of the curriculum.

Once successfully transitioned, the Garden has helped judge the event, and now we are expanding our Living Lab program to include a program to assist middle and high school students with their STEM Fair projects, utilizing the Botanical Garden as a resource.

We will be accepting up to six middle school and six high school students for the inaugural year of this program. Interested students will be asked to submit their information and will be invited to a short workshop at the Garden to finalize their project theme through the support of Garden educators and brainstorming sessions with their peers.

Students will generate an action plan during their first meeting, and devise a list of supplies, of which the Garden will provide within budget limitations. Students will have three follow up meetings in their groups to set up their projects and design their data collection procedures, to analyze and present their data, and to create displays and practice communicating their findings.

Students will be given a special pass for them and an adult to access the Garden for free to work on the project and collect data throughout the Fall semester. Each student will be monitored through this process and may schedule additional meetings with Garden educators as needed.

Please complete this form and submit to the Garden for consideration.