Encounters in Excellence is a non profit 501(C)(3) organization funded by foundations, corporations and individuals.

Since 1978 Encounters has reached close to two million students with its live auditorium presentations making it the largest assembly series in Miami-Dade public school history.

The Encounters in Excellence program consists of a series of film lectures on natural history topics. Based in Miami, Florida, much of the focus is on the incredible biodiversity of Biscayne Bay, the Everglades and the surrounding environments. The action-packed films are projected in school auditoriums using digital projectors and are narrated in person by the filmmakers. Students are encouraged to interact with the filmmaker after the program with a question and answer period. There is no other series like it in the United States.

Odyssey Earth is a multi-media website designed to complement and expand the Encounters in Excellence program. Through the lecture series and this website, Encounters in Excellence hopes to educate as well as introduce a sense of adventure, curiosity and responsibility to a new generation of students.

View our 2020/21 Final Report

Our Filmmaker/Presenters


Richard S. Kern has a BA in Literary and Cultural Studies from the College of William and Mary where he graduated in 2002. His interests in nature and art and his experiences with his filmmaking parents have equipped him to take the helm of the Encounters in Excellence team. Last year he presented his film Rainforests of the Maya to over 35,000 public school students.


Rich Kern, co-founder of Encounters in Excellence, is a noted wildlife filmmaker who has been presenting his travel-adventure films around the United States for over 35 years. He has been voted “best speaker of the year” on the prestigious National Geographic Film Lecture Series in Washington, DC. His footage has appeared in numerous TV documentaries on Discovery and other networks. Rich has a BA in biology from Colgate University.


Judy Kern has a B. A. in Biology from the University of Maine. She taught science and math before joining her husband Rich on the National Audubon Film Lecture Series. For 17 years she had an active role, traveling and putting together films for Miami-Dade County Schools. She was the lecturer for the Encounters in Excellence Elementary School Series and now does research and curriculum development for new and existing programming. She is also the school liaison.