By Matt Mackinder
Clarkston News Editor
INDEPENDENCE TWP. — Patricia Hillaker is a longtime science teacher at Renaissance High School, giving students a different perspective on the subject.
This school year, Hillaker is again teaching students how to grow produce in a hydroponic setting (growing without soil), how to foster and have salmon born in the classroom, and to grow and hatch chicken eggs, all part of her Project EARTH (Environmental Awareness Reaching Teen Homes) curriculum at the school.
“I am always trying to find ways to keep students excited about learning,” said Hillaker. “So I started partnering up with people in the community and it just went from there. We did stuff like bottle cap murals and raised gardens with a huge greenhouse at the old building. I wrote all the grant applications and got all the grant funding. I still want to keep the awareness going, and it’s all part of my project.”
Two of Hillaker’s students at Renaissance, seniors Angel Veloz and Madelynn Dominguez, are enamored with what they are doing in class.
“It’s exciting to be growing plants that we can eat and flowers that we can have,” Veloz said. “I really enjoy being here. I like science in general because there are so many different ways you can achieve things, like how we are growing plants without any soil. It’s exciting to see where this project will be in a couple months.”
“I really like the environment in this class, Mrs. Hillaker’s exciting personality, and just the amount of things that we learn in this class,” added Dominguez. “That all just really excites me. (Hydroponics) is exciting because there is no soil and it’s different, different for me, and I don’t think anyone has ever seen that before. It’s very cool.”
Hillaker noted that it’s her goal to see the students staying engaged and interested in the projects, which she plans to add on to in the coming years.
“I hope they learn something they can actually use, real-life experiences,” Hillaker said. “When the students are excited, I’m excited. From all these programs, they’ll be able to learn something, something they can actually apply later.”
PHOTO: Angel Veloz gets instruction from Renaissance science teacher Patricia Hillaker during a recent day at school. Photo: Matt Mackinder