Green Our Planet Family Spotlight: Mili Hortizuela πŸ‘©β€πŸŒΎ

Meet Mili Hortizuela! She is a rock star of a teacher at Eileen Conners Elementary School who has a school garden and a hydroponics program from Green Our Planet. In this interview, Mili shares her experience with her students in her gardens, with Green Our Planet, and Green Our Planet’s teacher trainings. Most powerful to us was her quote about how the school gardens have changed her student’s perceptions of the earth and the importance of caring for it. Enjoy!

What is your name?
My name is Mili Hortizuela.

What drew you to Green Our Planet?
I was drawn to Green Our Planet because of what they were doing by putting gardens in schools. I was so excited to give the students an opportunity to see where their food comes from. So many of these kids don’t know that food comes from a garden. And we talk about why we need to take care of our planet because it gives back to us. But they didn’t really see that in action. So by having a school garden and a curriculum that goes along with it, they could be like, oh, this is why we really need to take care of things, because it really is giving back to us. And the more we take care of the garden, the more it takes care of us.

And it’s just so exciting to get them outside and being afraid to touch the soil and then just, like, getting their hands dirty and just going for it. So I just love seeing how much they just love being outside and how much growing things make them happy.

How has your experience with Green Our Planet been?
Working with Green Our Planet has been really amazing. I love when the farmer comes to the school because if we have a problem in the garden, I can communicate with our farmer and they always have solutions. Working with our school coordinators has been really amazing too because if I need or my team needs ideas for community engagement, our coordinators always have some really amazing solutions. Like, even though we’re not in school, maybe you can do this with the school community. They are always willing to answer questions like, I don’t have a hydroponics system at my school, but I reached out to the hydroponics coordinator with some questions about what I could do to substitute some items. And she was such a delight to work with and gave me all kinds of really great things. So they’ve been wonderful in solution management.

How have your students reacted to the programming around the environment?
Working in the garden, students have had positive experiences making real world connections to what we’re learning in the classroom and seeing it applied in a smaller ecosystem of our garden.

Why are you a teacher / why did you choose to go into teaching?
I’m a teacher because growing up, I had really amazing teachers that inspired me. And as I grew up, I wanted to inspire students to want to become lifelong learners and to raise questions about how the world or the universe works or what’s going on in the world. And I wanted them to raise those questions and learn how to answer them on their own. And it’s so exciting to see them inspired and see them empowered when you do that. And it’s just very fulfilling.

What did you learn from the Teacher Training?
I didn’t know much about hydroponics before the teacher training, I knew how to do a simple wicking system with paper towels and a water bottle. But from the teacher training, I learned all different types of tools to do very in depth hydroponic systems and very simple hydroponic systems that are more than just the wicking system. And now I’m using that and those tools that I learned that I could use with my students so that they can create simple systems.

How did the Teacher Trainings impact your curriculum/students?
The teacher trainings have been really helpful at giving me different and creative ways to teach out into the garden. Before I took the STEM 101 training, I was like, I just need to teach life science standards when I’m out in the garden. But then they gave me all of these great cross curricular ideas of what I could do out in the garden. Like, I could go out there and do writing, or I should do perimeter measurements so that the students can have these more impactful lessons and see how it’s being taught in the classroom be applied to real life things. And it’s just made it a lot more fun and it’s been very helpful for me to teach other teachers at my school of how they could get out there more too, while also teaching garden standards and teaching them all the things that they could be doing. So they’ve been super helpful.

Do you believe in the work Green Our Planet does? Why?
I think it’s amazing what Green Our Planet does. It’s amazing that they get school gardens built in different schools so that students can see things growing who normally wouldn’t see things growing. And I think it’s really awesome that they help provide sponsors for the first few years so the schools can get their school gardens rolling. And it is really amazing for them to provide the school curriculum so that teachers, once they get these gardens, aren’t just at a loss. Like, here we have this garden. Now what do we do? They help you guide you through everything. It’s awesome.

Would you recommend other teachers take Green Our Planet trainings? Why?
I totally recommend teachers taking the Green Our Planet trainings. Some schools may think that one teacher is responsible for doing all the garden lessons, but when they take these trainings and they see how they can tie in different parts of the curriculum into the garden, then they feel more empowered to want to go outside and teach.

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