Program Spotlight: Hudson Valley Seed

Contributed by Ava Bynum, Executive Director, Hudson Valley Seed

HVSeedLogo150Hudson Valley Seed educates children in academics and wellness through curriculum- integrated lessons in school vegetable gardens. Hudson Valley Seed establishes educational school gardens and runs weekly curriculum-integrated garden lessons for 1,500 students across Putnam, Dutchess and Orange Counties.

Through weekly visits to the garden, students experientially learn math, science and more while being provided with the knowledge, skills and environment to make healthy choices. By uniting academic achievement and wellness education, healthy eating and hands-on learning can be integrated into the weekly schedule of public school classrooms across the Hudson Valley.

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This year we are working with 1,500 students in Beacon, Garrison and Newburgh public schools. During one classroom’s salad party, a first grade student said, “I never had salad before, now I love it!” This came from a girl who in September would not dig in the garden without gloves on, touch a worm or eat anything that had come close to dirt. The ten-month transformation of her attitude and enthusiasm, not just in regard to eating salad, but also in making observations, peer editing garden journals, transplanting squash seedlings and more, demonstrates the multi-faceted impact of Hudson Valley Seed’s work. It is becoming more widely appreciated that experiential learning and good nutrition are key to children’s academic achievement.

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When a student plants a kale seed, waters it each week and learns to graph the seedling’s growth, harvests kale leaves, and finally uses measurement to follow a recipe for making salad dressing, that student will try kale for the first time, and will eat it again at home. Hudson Valley Seed, in conjunction with The Beacon Farm to School Collaborative, has kept data from pre and post surveys that measure change in students’ attitudes towards new vegetables before and after Farm to School education. The results clearly show that when students have the opportunity to directly engage with a new vegetable, they are going to try it and encourage their families to try it at home. We have also seen that when these students are sent home with recipes they know how to create, they feel empowered to create those dishes for their guardians and siblings.

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Hudson Valley Seed has a very unique organizational model. We achieve health and wellness education through academic learning. With resources of time and money so constraining for public schools, wellness education for a set group of students would not be permitted to take up an hour weekly of the school day. Hudson Valley Seed has created a model by which these parameters can be circumnavigated. By focussing on academic excellence through experiential education, and by making a vegetable garden the site of that hands-on learning, nutrition education can become a weekly activity for students.

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Studies have shown that when students learn information experientially, especially in the outdoors, they are far more likely to retain that information for and following a test. This is how Hudson Valley Seed brings school districts and teachers on board. By counting pumpkin seeds to learn arithmetic, students also become comfortable eating squash. By graphing the growth of a kale seedling, students gain the confidence to try new dark leafy greens. By writing about the process of sowing carrot seeds, students become excited to pull the carrot from the dirt and eat it.

How can you help? Hudson Valley Seed is always looking for more volunteers! We can help match you with a volunteer opportunity that uses your skill set, or we can help you learn something new. Email volunteer@hudsonvalleyseed.org.

HVGA.HVSeedEventImageAn Afternoon Of Harvested Snacks & Sips with Hudson Valley Seed
Saturday, October 19th, 2014, 3pm-6pm
Winter Hill, 20 Nazareth Way, Garrison
An affordable family fundraiser for your school garden featuring creative outdoor activities, local fare, live music, silent auction and community celebration of garden education. More info.

Even if you are unable to attend on the 19th, you can still donate to support garden education! Every dollar you contribute directly helps more students visit school gardens. Give to Hudson Valley Seed at www.hudsonvalleyseed.org/giving.

Hudson Valley Seed
P.O. Box 223, Beacon, NY 12508
(845) 419-3871
www.hudsonvalleyseed.org

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Ava Bynum discovered her passion for connecting agriculture, education, and community at Four Winds Farm, where she worked for 8 summers as a farmer. A Garrison native, she taught at The Garden Road School in Peekskill, NY, which became the birth-site of the Hudson Valley Seed model. She founded Hudson Valley Seed recognizing the critical role the natural world played in her own development. She hopes to secure the same opportunities for all children and young people by working collaboratively to instill an innate sense of wonder, drive to explore and thirst for learning using the outdoors as the ultimate classroom. 

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