Introducing the Culturally Responsive Hydroponics Curriculum Framework

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

Amplifying the knowledge and culture of Indigenous heritage in schools should be the norm. That’s why we worked with a cadre of teachers from diverse backgrounds to create a Culturally Responsive Hydroponics Curriculum Framework based on Green Our Planet’s Hydroponics STEM Curriculum.

In 2020, Obama Fellows Joseph Kunkel of MASS Design and Ciara Byrne of Green Our Planet began collaborating on a project to integrate STEM education with cultural education. Joseph had heard from teachers and nonprofit leaders who work with students from indigenous communities in New Mexico that it was a challenge to connect students to the land and their culture. Since Green Our Planet was bringing its STEMworks-accredited Hydroponics STEM Program to many of the schools in these communities, the Obama Fellows decided to create a  Culturally Responsive Hydroponics Curriculum Framework.

Through a generous grant from the Whole Kids Foundation, Green Our Planet worked with a cadre of Indigenous, Hispanic, and White educators in northern New Mexico to create the Culturally Responsive Hydroponics Curriculum Framework based off of Green Our Planet’s Hydroponics STEM Curriculum.

The Green Our Planet Culturally Responsive Hydroponics Curriculum Framework was created to ensure our programming enables all students to learn about hydroponics through their own culture, heritage, and local geographical conditions. The Framework is designed to encourage teachers to create cross-curricular lessons through the lens of students’ diverse cultural backgrounds.

The Framework adapts Green Our Planet’s curriculum to the local and historical context—ultimately providing a template for educators in other communities to weave their own unique culturally responsive aspects into the curriculum as well.

The Framework identifies how the lessons can be student-centered, affirm cultural identities, allow students to connect with one another, and elevate cultural beliefs and ways of knowing and doing. It also explores the ways in which students learn about what is meaningful and motivational to students beyond standards and test scores.

We are honored to have worked with such incredible teachers and community members to create the Culturally Responsive Hydroponics Curriculum Framework. Green Our Planet’s Curriculum and Professional Development Manager Monica Gehrig said, “the cadre members’ approach to life and learning was extremely refreshing to listen to each month. While developing a framework over Zoom had its challenges, it turned out to be an incredible learning experience because of the amazing people on the cadre.”

The cadre members included the following:

  • Angela Feathers, La Tierra Montessori for the Arts and Sciences
  • Marcela Casaus, Hernandez ES—Espanola Public Schools
  • Nathan Thompson, Rocinante High School—Farmington
  • Daniel Loper, Dulce Middle School
  • Lorraine Gray, Four Bridges Traveling Permaculture Institute
  • Roxanne Swentzell, Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute
  • Sophia Rivas, Hydroponics Expert
  • Talavai Denipah-Cook, Ohkay Owingeh Community Member
  • Jaclyn Tregle, Red Willow Agriculture Program
  • Bruce Bermudez, Red Willow Agriculture Program
  • Monica Gehrig, Green Our Planet
  • Chris Anderson, Green Our Planet

Developing this framework came from a two part process. First, the contributors reviewed the GoP K-Grade 5 Hydroponics STEM curriculum and drew out major themes or Big Ideas. The Big Ideas are 1) Understanding Hydroponics, 2) How Hydroponics Relates to Your Life, 3) Water, 4) Seeds, 5) Plants, 6) Nutrition, 7) Environmental Sustainability, and 8) Designing Hydroponic Systems. The order of the Big Ideas can be adapted by teachers to fit their unique instructional needs.

Second, the contributors met for a series of writing workshops to identify the essential questions and subsequent content. The 7 categories covered in each Big Idea are:

  • Cultural Significance,
  • Regional Considerations,
  • Suggested Topics,
  • Suggested Activities,
  • Cross-Curricular Ties, and
  • Teacher Resources.

Chris Anderson, Green Our Planet’s Hydroponics Manager, said, “One of the best things about the whole project was meeting this amazing group of educators and activists who are making a difference in their communities by keeping tradition alive, while also innovating, and embracing new technologies. Working with them gave me hope and more validation for the work we are doing.”

Thank you to the Whole Kids Foundation; Joseph Kunkel, Obama Fellow and Principal,

MASS Design Group, Santa Fe; Roger Montoya, NM House, 40th District Representative, and CEO of Moving Arts Espanola; and all of the cadre members for bringing this project to life.

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