Elena Ortiz on Nature Education for Adults
Making connections to nature through working in a college garden.
Elena has been teaching with the Phoenix College Biosciences Department in the Maricopa Community College System for eleven years. She has taught environmental biology and general biology for non-majors. Her newest class is Plants and Society, a basic botany course for non-majors.
As part of teaching this class, she brings her personal interest for gardening into the classroom. She says the garden is a great place to introduce, or reintroduce, students to nature and ecology. Elena has a PhD in Plant Biology from ASU, a Master of Science in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico, and a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Her interests in ecology and gardening were both heavily influenced by her maternal grandfather who was a family doctor and gentleman farmer in Puerto Rico who retired on his farm. As a young girl, she would follow him around as he would spend the day working on projects, in his garden and orchid collection, or his farm. She credits him for most of the knowledge of the natural history of Puerto Rico that she still remembers today.
IN THIS PODCAST: Greg chats with an old college friend who is now teaching botany at Phoenix College. Elena shares what she is doing now and how she has brought her classrooms outdoors and into the garden. She describes how she believes it is important to make a connection with nature right outside your door, and how some of her students are surprised how easy it is to grow things in the desert. She also depicts how her students make the connections and take ownership of the garden enough that they want to stay working even after the class ends.
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