education

“Wait… learning can be FUN?”

“Wait… learning can be FUN?”
The benefits of garden-based education
By Chris Gavin, Garden Educator

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One of the perks of being an educator with Poughkeepsie Farm Project is that the job turns you into a bit of a local celebrity, especially among the 5-10 year old crowd. I cannot walk into an elementary school in Poughkeepsie without being swarmed by excited kids who want to know what we’re cooking today, what’s growing in the garden, or looking for a bite of whichever fresh veggies I brought from the farm that day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a student I work with every week or simply met once on a field trip to the farm, the experience makes such an impact that they remember the lesson long after it’s over. Just today a kid stopped me in the hallway to say “thanks for making popcorn with us; it was delicious!” - and I made popcorn with his class nearly six months ago! Students from last year’s after school program still regularly ask me about the red wiggler worms in our vermicomposting bin (How’s Henry? Tell him I say hi!”) and want assurances that I’m taking good care of them. And believe me, every student remembers EXACTLY where in the garden they planted their carrot seed and wants regular updates on its progress.

When a parent finds out that their child is now in love with kale salad or has a sudden interest in helping out around the kitchen, they want to know how we did it. But there’s no magic alchemy to our work, the key is facilitating joyful educational experiences. There’s a common misconception that “real” education can only happen sitting at a desk while passively listening to a teacher dole out information. And if kids are having fun they must not really be learning, right? Our education team loves our reputation as the fun vegetable people, but that’s an oversimplification of what we do. Well-intentioned teachers and parents often think that our programs are something EXTRA that kids can enjoy once they’re done with their ACTUAL education. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret, we are doing something revolutionary. We are helping youth recognize that not only can education occur outside of a traditional classroom setting but it can also be a joyful experience that sparks a life-long love of learning.

But don’t think that just because the kids are having fun that our programs are light on content. Our work supports classroom learning by providing hands-on and student-centered lessons that reinforce academic concepts. We make what kids are learning in school more relevant to their lives by connecting it to real-world applications. Connecting food and farming to classroom content is something we do every day with students. To highlight this, here are a few of the topics we recently covered in our elementary after school programs.

  • Students learn to be scientists as we plant seeds in the classroom, making predictions about when germination will occur and observing our seedlings with hand lenses.

  • Students study history and social justice as we learn about the contributions of people of color in farming like inventor/educator George Washington Carver and farm workers’ rights activists Dolores Huerta and Caesar Chavez.

  • We reinforce math skills as students learn to properly use measuring tools as we follow a recipe or when we estimate plant spacing in a garden bed.

  • We support literacy through our love of children’s literature and by writing letters to pen pals in other garden programs in our region.

  • Students build leadership skills as they practice teamwork, communication, and learn strategies for mindfulness and self-management.

For a student participating in the Poughkeepsie Food Power after-school programs, it may seem like all they are doing is preparing a healthy snack or carefully tending to a young plant in the school garden. But through our work we are helping to lay a foundation of joy, curiosity, and a life-long love of learning. We hope that our small acts will inspire the next generation of eaters to be more caring and empathetic to themselves, their community, and the world around them. I will leave you with a quote that regularly comes to mind as I’m leading youth in our programming. Paul Cezanne said “the day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.” And I hope our work is helping us all along the path towards that day.

Poughkeepsie Food Power After-School Programs are Accepting New Students

Poughkeepsie Farm Project is running after-school programming at six schools in the Poughkeepsie City School District as a partner on their Empire State Extended Learning Time grant.

Twice per week at six schools, PFP educators engage students in garden-based learning in all subject areas through hands-on gardening and food activities. While caring for their school gardens, students conduct, science experiments, explore plant life cycles, write poetry, observe insects, prepare healthy snacks, design inventions, read and discuss literature, create art, and improve their academic and leadership skills.

If you have a student who attends PCSD who would like to take part, please download the forms below and return to your child’s school. To register elementary and middle school students, fill out the first two forms below. All three forms are required for high school students. We would love it if you also emailed scanned forms to learning [at] farmproject [dot] org or texted photos of forms to 845-475-2734.

Program Registration Form (all schools)
Enrollment Form (all schools)
Internship Application Form (PHS Internship only)

Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s Elementary and Middle School Programs
Poughkeepsie Food Power is the perfect place for your child to increase her/his academic skills in a nurturing environment. Through children’s literature and group projects, Poughkeepsie Food Power builds social-emotional skills which support school and life success. Students will build skills in all subject areas through hands-on gardening and food activities. While caring for their school garden, students conduct science experiments, explore plant life-cycles, write poetry, observe insects, prepare healthy snacks, design inventions, create art, and read and discuss high-quality children’s literature.

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Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s High School Internship
Would you like to help care for your school garden, learn to cook healthy meals, and participate in fun team-building activities? Join the Poughkeepsie Food Power Internship at Poughkeepsie High School.

  • Gain culinary skills while preparing delicious meals with garden produce

  • Build leadership and relationship skills

  • Explore career and growth opportunities in the food sector.

  • Become active members of our local food system and work to create justice, equity, and power for all eaters.

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Here are some highlights from last year’s programs:

Summer Recap

PFP was out and about in Poughkeepsie and beyond this summer!

Briggin and Larissa worked with Poughkeepsie teacher Mary Ficht to revitalize the garden at Warring School with new garden beds for more growing space!

Chris and Jamie lead a family gardening session at Krieger School this summer as part of the Farm Fresh Home Chefs program.

Arm-of-the-Sea put on a beautiful and highly educational theatrical production called Dirt: The Secret Life of Soil in the courtyard of the Environmental Cooperative in partnership with PFP.

At our annual Summer Institute for Educators: Using Gardens to Build Community, Chris taught participants how to manage large groups in a small garden while cleaning up the garden, planting bean seedlings and carrot seeds, harvesting carrots, and preparing a snack.

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Serena Padilla from Hudson Valley Seed led the group in a workshop on Food Diversity and Building Community in Educational Gardens.

Jesica Clark of Willow Vale Farm taught participants how to build A-frame chalkboards for teaching in the garden.

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2018 Summer Institute Participants

Denise, Ellie and Demier offered tastes of "Peach Surprise" on the first day of school at Morse in conjunction with a visit from the Dutchess Outreach Mobile Market.

Briggin and Jamie hung out with fellow educators, KayCee and Susan, at the Community Harvest Party at the Kingston YMCA Farm Project.

Kate and Demier offered tastes of roasted squash at Morse School and talked with families about the versatility and variety of squash.

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Ellie brought our summer education/Green Jobs team to Jesica Clark's Willow Vale Farm in Stanfordville so Demier, Kitana, Savannah, and Isiah could learn how to erect a high tunnel by helping Jes install hers.

PFP's Garden Clubs Launch in Poughkeepsie Schools

By Chris Gavin, Garden Educator at Clinton and Krieger Schools

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Recently the Poughkeepsie City School District was selected as a recipient of the Empire State After-School grant to bring extended learning time to its students for the next five years.  And PFP couldn’t be prouder to be one of the community organization chosen to work with the district on this new project. Since December, we’ve been bringing our love of food and farming to Poughkeepsie’s four elementary schools, and we are expanding our after-school programming to include the middle school and high school as well.  This is as large an undertaking as it sounds, and to support this ambitious endeavor PFP has welcomed eight new garden educators to its farm family. I count myself lucky to be a part of this new team that brings together farmers, educators, food rights advocates, local college students, and longtime members of the Poughkeepsie community.

Our after-school program is called “Garden Club”, though that simple name doesn’t convey the depth and range of learning we are bringing to our students. The established teaching gardens at each site are the foundation for our work, but as you may know, food connects to virtually any academic discipline and touches so many aspects of our daily lives.  Through Garden Club, our students gain practical hands-on skills as they develop positive social and emotional tools that can help them throughout their lives. We connect our lessons to the natural sciences and English Language Arts so that our program supports classroom learning. Most importantly, our club helps create a community where our students can feel safe and comfortable being themselves, where they can develop strong relationships with their peers, and where they can build social skills like kindness and respect.

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The theme of our program is “FOOD IS LOVE”, and everything we teach connects to this central idea.  Cooking and eating food together is a way to build community and show people that you care about them.  Sharing recipes is a way to celebrate our own cultural traditions and learn about those that are different from our own.  Learning healthy eating habits is a way to love and support our bodies so that we can be our best selves. Growing food in a way that helps rather than hurts our environment shows our love for all living things.  These are some of the ideas we are sharing with our youth participants, and we hope that they will in turn share what they learn with their families and community.

On a personal note, I am a lifelong resident of the City of Poughkeepsie and I attended Poughkeepsie public schools for my entire K-12 education. To return as an educator to the schools that I attended as a child has been a powerful and humbling experience for me.  Sharing the joy of food and love of nature with the next generation of kids in my hometown brings me a level of pride and fulfillment that I haven’t before experienced in my professional life. I am so proud to be a part of the team that brings this educational experience to so many youth throughout the district.  Here’s to four more years of transformative learning!

That's Chris and her son!

That's Chris and her son!

An Herbal Class With Beatrix

By Sarah Moley

It was that first cool day of fall weather, cloudy, and we watched for the rain. Beatrix Clarke, our resident herbalist, had me peeling the onion we were going to have everyone chop up for their fire ciders. She peeled the garlic. We waited until everybody arrived, and then we all introduced ourselves and, as Beatrix asked of us, told something we knew about herbalism. While the answers were varied, they all had to do with alternative options for healing. The power of herbs. This is something I’ve found a lot of people feel. We are still captivated in this modern world by the plant’s ability to heal and protect. Beatrix talked about how, in medieval times, they would salt pack meat with herbs—herbs because everyone would get sick off of the meat otherwise—herbs were the best way to kill the germs.

Today, this tradition coupled with the ability of herbs to make certain foods more easily digestible—rosemary for lamb, sage for poultry, both digestive herbs in this sense—makes herbs a staple in most kitchens. A practice that, with centuries of proof behind it, we no longer question the why; why certain herbs go best with certain foods, how much culinary herbal knowledge we actually do possess, without needing an explanation. However, with modern medicine evolving farther and farther outside of the farm and garden, even in an herbal group, we are shy to stake our own claims about how herbs have healed us or helped us to prevent the need for healing in the first place, helped us stomach life’s problems—outside of the kitchen. But today, we are in a tincture kitchen, underneath an outdoor tent, steps away from the herb garden.

Next, we go on an herbal walk. Only ten herbs. That’s best for the memory, Beatrix says. First, Beatrix stops right inside the gate, “Careful of the nettles!” I warn. Of course, this is exactly what Beatrix wants to show everyone. The power of nettles. “Really good for you, you can use them like spinach.” I add as we walk, “Make sure to sauté or steam them first!” repeating something Beatrix had told me before when I was skeptical of eating nettles myself. A simple solution used to temper their sting.

Then we picked Ricolla Mint for our digestive tinctures. “Five leaves, or more—if you want more.” As Beatrix would tell everyone later, “Tincturing is an art, not just a science.” However, it is an art that requires the scientific categorization of herbs as a base; you have to know what you’re working with before you test age-old recipes. There’s a reason some combinations are tried and true; this form of medicine has been around for a long time. A weak sage tea is good for the stomach, a strong sage tea makes a good gargle for sore throats—but could wreak havoc on your stomach functions for that day. Herbs are like anything else, good in their proper amount. However, it would be difficult to land yourself in big trouble due to herb use, except, in extreme cases, as Beatrix mentioned next with the comfrey. “Comfrey is a wonderful herb, but has recently been blacklisted thanks to some woman who drank a gallon of comfrey extract and ended up in the hospital.” Think about it; imagine drinking a gallon of any kind of extract—like vanilla extract, for instance. The sheer amount she consumed is unbelievable. Beatrix continues, “So we have to make sure to plant it. An act of defiance now.” To this everyone chuckled, but took note.

We kept walking, even as a couple raindrops broke on us. “Parsley tea for UTIs; the problem with cranberry juice is all of that sugar. The cranberry makes you slippery so the bacteria slips out, but sugar. Grows bacteria. Parsley is better. No sugar.” We get to the herb wheel. She points out a marshmallow plant, the calendula we use for our PFP salves, and lastly, we pass around some Tulsi, or holy basil, to smell. It smells heavenly; wonderfully heady; like the panacea (or cure-all) it is.

Then, we head back into the tent to start working on our tinctures, mint leaves in hand. We all split up into assigned groups at three different stations. Beatrix explains the process for each one before we begin. When talking about the digestive tincture, Beatrix tells us, “Now, for a while at first, you’re going to want to give it a shake, everyday. And talk to it. Tell it good things, ‘you’re a good tincture, you’re going to make my tummy feel better’” Everybody chuckles, “you know, stuff like that. And, I’m serious because—they did a study, studied frozen water crystals—the crystals when you wrote something like ‘love’ on the outside, they froze into these, transformed, beautiful structures.” I remembered listening to a tape of this talk in the car on the way to school everyday in fifth grade. My mother, also an herbalist, loved the science behind the effect of positive words on water cells. We humans carry a lot of water with us. There is something undeniably good about ingesting herbs to heal, relax, or digest. We feel good about it. I think there’s something to that.

Beatrix sends me to boil water for the glycerin tincture. In this workshop she is teaching us how to make three different kinds of tinctures: a digestive tincture with an alcohol base, a relaxing tincture with a glycerin base (good for kids), and a fire cider with an apple cider vinegar base. She explained at one point that “fire cider” is the name for an age-old tonic that has, just recently, been copyrighted by one company. “Us herbalists have to fight back,” she says, “They’re saying we can no longer use this term. Just think of that!”

When I return the tent smells rich with seeds that have been bruised in a mortar and pestle, roots that have been chopped or grated, leaves that have been cut fine. I start with the glycerin tincture. Pouring the hot water over the chamomile and fennel on a cool day is instantly relaxing. We switched stations, giving everyone time to compose one of each kind.

When we were done, we talked for a bit, people asked questions about specific health concerns, garden concerns, “I have too much comfrey,” someone said, to which I replied, “You can turn comfrey into a compost tea if you’ve used all you want to use for other things; you can chop it up, let it stew in water until it gets smelly, and then put it right back into your garden.” Others asked about lyme disease, a woman’s child had been diagnosed this summer; Beatrix replied, “Artemisia annua is a good one for spirochetes; make a tea. In addition to everything else you’re doing…” After more questions like these, we parted ways. Since the workshop, we’ve had eager new volunteers in our Meditation Garden, hungry for Beatrix’s herbal knowledge. And she has more than enough to spare. “We talk about all kinds of things during our workdays; anyone can come,” I say, “And not just herbs!” Beatrix and I laugh. As we made our way out of tent, everyone looked happy, heading home, toting their new tinctures, I imagined them thinking, ‘you are good tinctures; you’re going to make me feel better.’ 


***It's not too late to register for any or all of the remaining herbal home remedy classes with Beatrix! To learn more and register for a class, go here.***

Thanks a BUNCH!!!!

As the academic year comes to a close we must say goodbye to our student interns in the education department. It seems impossible to express our gratitude for them in adequate terms. This team of unbelievably passionate, fun-loving people devoted so much time, sweat, and love to our work in Poughkeepsie. Between classes, exams, papers, extracurricular clubs, and maintaining an active social life, they still managed to come to the farm each day energized and excited to dive right in (rain, shine, or snow!).

Anthony, Sophie, Carly, Isabel, Olivia, Rodnisha, Zoe, Alyssa, Sevine, Cymphoni, Dan, John, Sathia, Maria, Liza, Fiona, Allie, Samantha, Tina, thank you so much for your invaluable contributions!

We are thrilled by the educational opportunity that this program provides for interns, the sense of community it fosters, and of course, the powerful impact it has in our city. Interested in growing with us as garden based educators this summer?  We are seeking volunteers who are able to commit to one or more 4 hour sessions a week from July - August. These “Super Volunteers” will join our Education staff by assisting with field trips, cooking and growing workshops, and other special education-based events. Reach out to our Education Manager ellie@farmproject.org to learn more and let’s get dirty! 

Would you be willing to eat dirt?

Would you be willing to eat dirt?
By Sevine Clarey, Education Intern

Believe it or not, there is a French restaurant in Tokyo, Ne Quittez Pas, where people come and pay large amounts of money to be able to try an entire course featuring this very thing: dirt. The restaurant buys the ingredients from Protoleaf, a company that makes organic compost using coconut husks imported from Sri Lanka and India.(1) According to those bold individuals who have tried this dish, it is actually quite delicious.

Surprisingly, eating dirt, known as geophagia, has been around for centuries, and some experts say that it may actually boost your immune system. This may be linked to why babies spend the first year of their life putting things in their mouths.(5) Dr. Joel V. Weinstock, the director of gastroenterology and hepatology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, said in an interview that the immune system at birth “is like an unprogrammed computer. It needs instruction.” (2) Soil is naturally teeming with trillions of microorganisms that research is discovering may successfully treat things like allergies, bacterial infections, asthma and other autoimmune diseases. Findings show that soil-based organisms can nourish cells in the colon and liver, create new compounds, antioxidants and enzymes, destroy harmful pathogens and kill off bad bacteria.

At Poughkeepsie Farm Project, it is clear that so much attention is paid to the soil. A fertile and healthy soil is the basis for healthy plants, and whether it be through cover cropping, crop rotation, compost, organic fertilizer, or reduced tillage, our farmers cherish and cultivate the huge diversity of life in the ground. See Patrick’s awesome article on the subject for further emphasis on the topic. Though we wouldn’t necessarily recommend chewing on handfuls of dirt from your backyard(3) we certainly encourage eating food straight from the ground at PFP.

Learning of a restaurant serving “pure dirt” on a menu raises some very interesting questions though.

What do we consider food?
What is edible and inedible?
What about trash?

At a United Nations meeting in the fall of 2015, world leaders dined on what some would call trash.  Professional, world-renown chefs cooked up a meal with plates called “landfill salad” which consisted of vegetable scraps and chickpea water and others which had ingredients like repurposed bread and cow corn. They created a lunch that was made entirely of food that would have ended up in garbage bins. Things like bruised beets, off-grade vegetables and rejected apples would have gone completely to waste had they not been salvaged. This was done with the goal to highlight the incredible waste in modern diets and society and the detrimental effects it has on our environment. (4)

Movements like the “ugly food movement” are also aligning with our health and our planet’s health and changing the mentalities on what we should consider food. So much food is wasted whether it is in the process of growing, harvesting, transporting, buying, cooking or eating. Using foods that may not necessarily look “pretty” and salvaging parts of the food that are still healthy are two simple things ugly-fooders promote that can help reduce waste. 

Whether it is eating dirt, “trash” or ugly food, it is important to take a moment to realize how we look at food and how we may be categorizing based on appearance. Like humans, food comes in all shapes and sizes, and, by broadening our horizons, we can start to make changes that can help us and our environment become healthier.

Sources:

1. http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/01/30/japanese-restaurant-serves-meal-of-dirt-for-110/
2. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/health/27brod.html
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1279487/
4. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/09/28/why-world-leaders-dined-on-trash-at-the-u-n/?utm_term=.a1b181425314
5. https://draxe.com/eating-dirt/

Gov. Clinton Elementary School Builds a Garden

After taking PFP’s “Using Gardens to Teach” Summer Institute for Educators in 2014, third grade teacher Mrs. Suzi Sullivan was intent on starting a school garden at Clinton School. Since then, she has written and been awarded three grants in order to purchase the fence, garden, beds, soil, and hand tools that have made her vision a reality. Her students have been busy planting seedlings donated by Poughkeepsie Farm Project. School principal, Mr. David Scott said, "I am extremely appreciative of the support of our partners: Lowe’s Toolbox for Education, Whole Kids Foundation, Tractor Supply Company’s Dig-It Program, and Poughkeepsie Farm Project." Clinton students now have the opportunity to experience an outdoor classroom setting that fosters the learning of various topics including science, social studies, math, literacy, and nutrition.

One of the main goals of the school’s garden is to provide educational lessons that incorporate meaningful messages about nutrition. According to Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s education director, Jamie Levato, “taking part in garden-based learning encourages healthful eating and connects students to academic subjects in engaging ways.” Not only does the exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables allow students to develop healthy eating behaviors and food choices, but the involvement in their growth, maintenance, and harvest establishes a more purposeful connection that will follow students as they move into adolescence and adulthood. Mrs. Sullivan says, “the garden will play a critical role in establishing an environment that supports healthy behaviors while providing opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity.” Research shows that nurturing students’ interest in eating fruits and vegetables and improving their knowledge of nutrition can lead to improvements in eating habits, and thus academic performance, social skills and behavior.

Clinton School will have classes decide what to grow in the garden and spend one 40-minute period each week for garden bed maintenance or other educational activities like reading in the garden. Mr. Scott, says he knows that the garden “will promote healthy eating behaviors by providing our students with direct, hands-on learning experiences in the school garden.”  Additionally, students will be able to harvest and taste fresh produce. The success of the school garden program will be measured by student reports of their gardening experiences, including what activities they enjoyed, new fruits and vegetables they were able to taste, and what messages they took away from it.

On June 10th, 2016, there will be an outdoor, full-school assembly at 12:45pm followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony at 1:30pm. This event will celebrate the importance of promoting health and well-being through student, faculty, and family participation in building and maintaining the school’s garden.

"Using Gardens to Teach" Workshop Benefits Local Educator

We are excited to offer our annual Using Gardens to Teach Summer Institute for Educators again this coming August 23-25. Below is a letter from Nicole Cardish, one of our 2015 participants, to a colleague. We just saw Nicole a few days ago when she picked up seedlings that PFP donated to the Mill Road School Garden that she manages in Red Hook. She was thrilled to be planting with the students and teaching in the garden

As suggested by her note, Nicole has started a vermiculture bin and has just initiated classroom composting for snack time and the kids are loving it! She and the students are also growing a wide range of vegetables in the garden for tastings and preparing simple snacks.

From left to right: Susan and Nicole collect and process seeds from Glacier Tomatoes; Nicole and Stacy prepare a healthy garden-fresh snack; Nicole and Isaac find the area and perimeter of a garden bed; Nicole picks up PFP-grown seedlings for the Mill Road School Garden.

Growing Native American Heritage: the Three Sisters

Growing Native American Heritage: the Three Sisters

In thinking about complex sustainable agricultural techniques, it is easy to think only of modern innovations.  In fact, many traditional agricultural communities have developed extremely resilient, efficient, and sustainable techniques.  One such technique is companion planting, an agricultural technique where two or more crops are planted together in a single plot.