Green Our Planet’s April 2021 Newsletter

Green Our Planet Virtual Academy Logs Over Two Million Student Views!

Last March, just two weeks after CCSD schools shut down, Green Our Planet issued its first Virtual Academy newsletter, which contained six video lessons that our film team had filmed with our talented farmers, hydroponics experts and nutrition-chefs. Our goal was to pivot from delivering high quality STEM, nutrition and conservation education at schools to delivering education directly in students’ homes. From those humble beginnings, Green Our Planet’s Virtual Academy has swelled in content and more than two million students have enjoyed learning about everything from pollination (in the lesson about bees above) to how to build their own hydroponics units, harvest vegetables and cook them, and the finer points of sustainable agriculture and even about the forces of erosion on Mars! To see for yourself, you can visit our Virtual Academy here.

Green Our Planet Wins Coveted Civvies Youth Award

Green Our Planet is excited to be this year’s recipient of the National Civvies Youth Award. The American Civic Collaboration Awards “highlight outstanding initiatives working to collaborate across divides at the national, local and youth levels.” Civvys “celebrates best practices in civic collaboration that put community and nation before party, ideology and narrow interests.” You can watch Co-CEO Ciara Byrne’s acceptance speech here.

Despite Covid, GoP’s School Garden and School Hydroponics Programs Continue to Expand After Major, Online Pivot

 

school hydroponics

Principal Bob Pymn (above right, at rear) and Native American students in Venetie, Alaska, 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle with Green Our Planet hydroponic units

 

As it was for so many other organizations, COVID-19 was a major shock for Green Our Planet. Pre-pandemic, one of our two main programs, the Outdoor Garden STEM Program, was mainly delivered in person. We lost almost 50% of our funding overnight, and our in-person programming at schools where there were no longer students wasn’t possible. We feared the worst.

Pre-pandemic, we would host in-person Teacher Trainings to help educators integrate the school garden and hydroponics programs into their schools. Our Chef Nutrition Specialists would visit each school, providing nutrition education to students through in-person demos. Our Farmer Team would visit schools once a week to model STEM lessons in the garden and show teachers and students how to cultivate the garden ecosystem. Partnering with local banks, we delivered in-person Financial Literacy lessons based on our curricula that culminated in a bi-annual Giant Student-run Farmers Market. We call this the Farmpreneur program.

When COVID hit, the schools sent the students home and the possibility of in-person programming crumbled. Rather than leaving our destiny to chance, we completely transformed our operational model. We considered feedback from schools, the community’s current needs, and ideas from a cadre of teachers and of course from our staff. The result was a fast-tracked plan to pivot our programming online.

Within two weeks of the schools shutting down, we created the Green Our Planet Virtual Academy, a repository of fun, STEM, nutrition and conservation video lessons that our farmers and chef-nutritionists taught and that our film team captured on camera.  We created Live Virtual Cooking Nutrition Lessons, which our Chef Nutrition Specialists filmed in their own kitchens, sometimes with phone cameras. Because they were live, students were able to ask questions and sometimes even cooked along. The Chef Nutrition Team also adapted the nationally recognized SNAP-ed Dig In Nutrition Education Curriculum and now delivers these lessons to students and teachers online.

Meanwhile, inquiries from schools across the U.S. continued to pour in that wanted to enroll in our STEM Hydroponics Program. Green Our Planet now works with 10 states, from Alaska to New York, and the program continues to expand. Our farmers continued visiting the gardens weekly, meanwhile, in order to maintain the gardens, but they also began recording Virtual Garden Tours and offered live virtual Q&A sessions so students and teachers could stay connected with their school gardens and get their horticulture questions answered. We also transformed our previously in-person Teacher Trainings and our Farmpreneur Program to be available online while enrollments have gone up.

The pandemic could have been the demise of Green Our Planet. Instead, by pivoting our programming and by working with the many teachers and administrators who were determined to deliver the best programming to their students that they could, Green Our Planet didn’t just survive. We grew. Since COVID hit, we’ve expanded our STEM Hydroponics Program, expanded our PreK-5 health lessons to PreK to 12, launched SNAP education, created a Virtual Academy with ever-growing STEM, nutrition and conservation video lessons, and continue to have a 97% recommendation rate among teachers using our programs. In short, we’ve been more active than ever! Check out the snapshot of our activity during the pandemic in the numbers below!

Since COVID hit we have delivered..

  • 309 Virtual Garden Tours
  • 42 weekly newsletters with fresh STEM video content each week
  • 120 STEM, nutrition and conservation video lessons
  • 55 Live Virtual Cooking Nutrition Lessons
  • 42 Virtual SNAP-ed Dig-in Cooking Nutrition Lessons
  • 20 new Hydroponics Programs bringing our program to 85 schools across 10 states
  • 309 Virtual Garden Tours
  • 21 Live Virtual Ask-A-Farmer Sessions
  • 5 PDE,live online Teacher Trainings
  • 4 Online Financial Literacy workshops

Teacher Spotlight

Casey Juliano: STEM Library Learning Commons Specialist, Nate Mack Elementary
Favorite healthy meal: Apple Pomegranate Vinaigrette Salad

Casey is an outstanding educator in our community. She is the Garden Team Leader of Nate Mack Elementary and has taken the school’s Garden and Hydroponics programs above and beyond!

Casey was born and raised in Las Vegas. She became an educator because she loves teaching, learning, and encouraging curiosity and exploration. Casey has taught every grade, kindergarten through fifth grade, before taking on the STEM Library Learning Commons Specialist role. Her current role is her favorite because she gets to work with the teachers and students at every grade level. In total, she’s been in the teaching game for 21 years!

Casey’s drive to spark curiosity and exploration shows in the way she energetically leads the school’s hydroponics and garden programs. When we asked her why she wanted to get involved with a school garden and hydroponics program, she said:

“I think every person should have the ability to grow their own food so they can be self-reliant and healthy. Our School garden has been so successful; when I met Chris Anderson (Green Our Planet’s Head of Hydroponics), she inspired us to want to dive right in.”

She started the Hydroponics program amidst the pandemic, wasting no time at all. After attending one of Green Our Planet’s Hydroponics Teacher Trainings, she went right to Lowes, bought the necessary materials, and built three seven-gallon, deep water culture hydroponics units. Casey started by sharing the units she made in the library.

“All of the students would become so excited and interested in what was happening that I knew moving on to a school-wide program was essential at our school,” she said.

Since that day, the program has grown to be a huge success, just like her school garden program, despite hurdles posed by the pandemic.

When students and teachers were sent home, Casey worked collaboratively with Green Our Planet’s own Farmer Monica to bring the students engaging content. Together they have made garden and hydroponics centered STEM video lessons and updates, so the students feel like they’re in the garden just as if they were there in person. Casey also features garden and hydroponics updates weekly in their school’s news program.

Whether experienced through a computer screen or in-person, the hydroponics and school garden programs Casey has dynamically built are genuinely amazing and have positively impacted the students and staff at Nate Mack Elementary.

“So many of our staff and teachers are invested [in the programs]. Our custodial crew loves the hydroponics so much that they come in every day to check on the plants and even take pictures! Especially when kids or adults are having a rough day, they love to visit the hydroponics area or the garden. There is something about the green and the life growing that brings a sense of peace.”

Thank you, Casey, for all that you do to inspire your students, spark their curiosity, and connect them to the magic and majesty of the universe!

Join Our Earth Day Pollinator Garden Blitz To Help Endangered Monarch Butterflies Out

Green Our Planet has a campaign underway to help endangered Monarch Butterflies for this year’s Earth Day! Why Monarch Butterflies? Because they’re in serious trouble.

In the last 20 years, the Monarch Butterfly’s only food source, milkweed, has steadily disappeared from the US. As a result, Monarch Butterflies have nowhere to eat and lay eggs as they undergo their great migration across the Western US to California and back each year. Many scientists see the plight of the Monarchs as a “canary in a coal mine.” They fear that other important pollinators may be headed to the same fate due to habitat destruction, which will negatively impact our ecosystem overall.

Here at Green Our Planet, we focus on solutions: restoring the monarch’s habitat in our community! For the last few months, we have been raising 1,500 milkweed plants in our homes. 50 of these plants are destined to be planted on the Downtown Summerlin property in partnership with The Howard Hughes Corporation. The Howard Hughes Corporation is growing a total of 100 milkweeds on their property, along with a plethora of other bright flowers to support pollinators. Our Green Our Planet farmer team will plant the remaining milkweeds at our school gardens across Las Vegas! The result will be a nationally-recognized Monarch Butterfly Waystation at every [orange/blue] pin in the map below.

This effort is a good first step, but it’s not enough. We need to educate the public about the Monarch’s plight and continue to support their habitat before it’s too late. To learn more, please visit our Pollinator Gardens web page to see what else we are doing to support pollinators locally and how you can help!

Green Our Planet farmers (left to right) Rosalie, Tom and Eddie with some of 1.500 baby milkweed plants (A. subulata) destined for school gardens

Green Our Planet pollinator gardens and Monarch Way Stations in Las Vegas, Nevada

To our sponsors and partners:

Thank you to all the sponsors and partners that have made the success of this year possible! In particular, we’d like to thank the Andre Agassi Foundation, The Department of Health and Human Services, Las Vegas Sands, Switch, SNAP-ed, and Whole Kids Foundation. Special thanks to Western Alliance and
BHFS for your participation and support in the development of our new programming!

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