A team of us paid a site visit to the Cornell Cooperative Extension program in New York City (CCE-NYC) a couple of weeks ago, and it made for a remarkable day. CCE-NYC takes the model of extending research knowledge to citizens who can use it, implementing evidence-based programs in an urban setting (rather than the rural contexts many people associate with extension).
CCE hosted us in the Food & Finance High School, where they conduct several programs for young people. And there we had a very personal experience of research translation. We sat down for a lunch of broiled tilapia and fresh green salad. Then we took the elevator to another floor in the school — and saw where both were produced.
Long-term CCE-NYC staff member Philson Warner has developed a special Hydroponics Learning Model curriculum to teach science and technology to students. They learn not only to grow edible edible crops — which were delicious, by the way — but also about fundamental scientific concepts. This model isn’t just applicable to schools — Warner has created a similar program at the Rikers Island prison.
Most suprising was to go through an unassuming door to a full scale fish-farming operation, with enormous tanks containing 4000 tilapia. Students learn the science and technology of raising fish; some are sold and other donated to homeless shelters.
Among the other highlights was learning about the major expansion of CCE-NYC nutrition education programs throughout the city’s neighborhoods, created through a partnership with the NYC Human Resources Administration. HRA is the agency charged with providing temporary help to individuals and families with social service and economic needs, helping them to achieve self-sufficiency. It adminsters the food stamp program — hence the connection to nutrition education. One exciting possibility is additional collaboration between Cornell and HRA, a potentially huge research opportunity, given that HRA serves more than 3 million New Yorkers through a wide array of programs and services. A very vigorous youth development program is also thriving in CCE-NYC.
Extensive information is available on the CCE-NYC web site. In all, an amazing portfolio of programs that transform research into practice.