Elizabeth Morris

Journalism and Economics Major at Ithaca College. Passions: Reading, Baking, Writing and Economics.

Lansing’s Yoga Farm grows business with two-week promotion

Christopher Grant, owner of the Yoga Farm, demonstrates a pose for a yoga class.
Christopher Grant, owner of the Yoga Farm, demonstrates a pose for a yoga class. ©Ithaca Week 2015, Elizabeth Morris

Note: This story was originally published in the publication “Ithaca Week.”

By Sam Kuperman, Elizabeth Morris and Katelyn Harrop

In an effort to meet the rising demand for yoga classes in Tompkins County, Lansing’s Yoga Farm has hired new staff and offered two weeks of free classes to expand its business, which opened a new studio space this summer.

July and August are slow times for yoga centers, due to good weather, but September’s cooler temperatures attract customers, said Christopher Grant, owner of the Yoga Farm.

In anticipation of these customers, the Yoga Farm opened a new set of classes in early Sept., featuring 10 teachers and 13 different kinds of classes. In addition to yoga classes, the new schedule also features other wellness courses including dance, Chi Gong and Tai Chi.

“The goal was to expose the new teachers,” Grant said. “You go to our website and there are a lot of classes, so how would you know which ones are right for you? The goal really is to open it up so people could sample without any risk.”

Instructor Emily Healy, who joined the Yoga Farm staff in June, said she has noticed an increase in class participation since the promotion began.

The first week of the promotion six to eight people averaged per class and, the second week, an average of 10 to 12 people attended, said Grant.

“When I started teaching there I’d have 2 or 3 students each week, and with the promotion, my classes have had up to 10 students these past 2 weeks-even between last week and this week there’s been an overall increase in attendance,” said Healy in an email.

Grant said these customers are mainly new clients looking for a chance to try yoga for the first time, which makes the introductory classes the most popular. During the second week of the promotion, the Yoga Farm saw an increase in customers, with two different classes bringing in 16 and 17 customers respectively.

Healy said the two-week offering period was designed to remove barriers preventing potential students from exploring new opportunities.

“The promotion was meant to really celebrate all these offerings and to allow people to sample all the different classes, and also just to get people out there to see how beautiful and inviting the space is,” Healy said. “We were hoping that, by making these two weeks very inviting, it would encourage people to keep coming back.”

Grant started the Yoga Farm in summer of 2014 in a small room over his garage with one class a week. Because of demand, Grant added a few more classes and in November 2014 he rolled out an 11 class schedule. At first he taught small classes but, as demand started to grow throughout the winter, Grant decided to renovate his barn into a studio. He opened the barn for classes June 19, 2015, with roughly 200 people attending the grand opening.

“I started asking a few other yoga teachers I know to teach classes, because I see this as being bigger than just me,” Grant said.

Yoga Farm instructor Neko Three Sixty said she first saw the Yoga Farm at the open house in June and immediately wanted to be a part of the Yoga Farm. She now lives at the Yoga Farm and teaches classes.

“It was like a vision I had seen in my mind for years, and even the color of the house and the whole thing, and I’m such a visual person,” Three Sixty said.

To follow the promotion’s momentum, Yoga Farm will be offering more permanent discounts, including discounted class passes, Healy said.

“With the growth I’ve witnessed at the Yoga Farm since I got involved, and especially in the last couple weeks, I have really high hopes of how the farm will grow and expand in the future,” Healy said. “Christopher, the owner, has an amazing vision for the place and has made it a reality. I think the vision has so much support and such a strong community of people who want to see it succeed that it’s in a really great position to keep on growing.”

Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology celebrates 100th anniversary

Visitors crowd around a bird demonstration during the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Open House
Visitors crowd around a bird demonstration during the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Open House. ©Ithaca Week 2015, Steve Pirani

NOTE: This story was originally published in “Ithaca Week” and then “The Ithaca Voice.”

By Elizabeth Morris and Steve Pirani

Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology is celebrating its centennial anniversary in 2015 with open houses and new bird exhibits. Ithaca’s own bird research and observatory is reflecting on the past, while also looking toward the years ahead. 

The lab was the brainchild of Arthur A. Allen, famed ornithologist who joined Cornell as a professor of entomology in 1915. From these humble beginnings grew the lab as it stands today, a stunning, glass-walled wedge of a building nestled into the 220 acres of nature that make up Sapsucker Woods. The lab has connected with over 12 million enthusiasts online and now boasts a community of over 200,000 citizen scientists and members.

Time, and decades of shared enthusiasm for Earth’s winged creatures have led up to present day, where the lab now stands as a nexus of Ornithology. Scott Sutcliffe, Annual Fund and Stewardship Director at the lab, said the passing of time has not nullified the initial passion that drove the lab into reality.

“It’s curious: Arthur Allen’s ideals of 1915 still live with us everyday,” said Sutcliffe. “One of his ideals was to take Ornithology out into the masses and share it with people who are interested in birds. So in many ways, we are still the same organization that he started 100 years ago, but because of modern technologies and expanding populations in the world as it is, we’ve really just grown a whole lot.”

John Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Lab of Ornithology, said that the first century is just the beginning of the lab and expects much more innovation in the years to come.

“This 100-year point, it seems like a good time to be celebrating where we’ve come from and also challenging ourselves to do the things that have to be done,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick said the lab is continually working to engage not only researchers, but also the rest of the world through new innovations and technologies.  

“I’m proud as heck about what this place has become, and I’m really excited about the things we still have to do,” Fitzpatrick said. “One of those things is to build a technical infrastructure that allows everybody in the world to interact with us, freely, openly — literally freely — and easily,”

To do so, the lab has taken to the web over the last few years to make birdwatching a truly accessible hobby. Ebird, an online catalog of user-submitted bird sightings that works on a global scale, is one of the ultimate fruits of this passion for integrating technology and birdwatching. Birders, like Cayuga Bird Club president and long-time birder Paul Anderson, said these technological advances are major developments in the birdwatching community.

“I think that’s been the most significant advance in the science and hobby of birdwatching – maybe ever,” Anderson said.

Miyoko Chu, senior director for communications at the lab, echoes Anderson’s sentiments, and said she has hopes that Ebird will present a new venue for people to appreciate and preserve birds all over the globe.

“[Ebird] is a really powerful tool, and something that we hope leads people to explore more of the information about birds and get more engaged in wanting to protect them,” Chu said.

With 100 years behind them, Fitzpatrick and the Lab of Ornithology seems to have no intent of slowing down. With Ebird and other online platforms gearing up for public release, the director said the next century brings with it the promise and, most importantly, the excitement that drives the lab.

“As director of the place for the last 20 years, and as someone who has worked to make something that is preeminent, my big question is what is the next 100 years?” Fitzpatrick said. “And that is the most exciting thing of all.”

Cornell and Ithaca announce cross-university partnership for agricultural education

Jim Overhiser teaches the course Science Topics Every Science Teacher Should Know to graduate students in the Masters of Arts in Teaching program at Ithaca College. © Ithaca Week 2015, Elizabeth Morris
Jim Overhiser teaches the course Science Topics Every Science Teacher Should Know to graduate students in the Masters of Arts in Teaching program at Ithaca College. © Ithaca Week 2015, Elizabeth Morris

NOTE: This story was originally published in “Ithaca Week” and then “The Ithaca Voice.”

By Elizabeth Morris and Emily Masters

Ithaca College and Cornell University have partnered to offer an agricultural education graduate program, starting next year. The announcement comes at a time of high demand for agricultural educators.

The new cross-university partnership will combine classes from Ithaca’s graduate education program and Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Right now we’re at a critical deficit in the country of agriculture teachers,” said Katie Bigness, coordinator for New York Agriculture in the Classroom.

The need is particularly dire in New York, said Jeff Perry, a senior lecturer at Cornell who will teach courses for the new cross-university partnership.

Within the next decade, Perry said, a significant amount of agricultural educators will retire. Retirements and new programs will fuel six to 10 job openings in high schools across New York each year, he said.

Perry said SUNY Oswego is the only other institution of higher education offering a Masters of Arts in Agricultural Teaching program with teacher certification in New York.

“There aren’t many options for students who really want to stay in the state but really want agriculture education and want teacher certification with it,” said Jeane Copenhaver-Johnson, a faculty member in the Department of Education’s graduate program at Ithaca College.

Ithaca and Cornell already have an articulation agreement allowing Cornell students with an education minor to enroll in Ithaca’s graduate education program, said Linda Hanrahan, the chair of graduate programs in education at Ithaca. The new program extends the agreement to students studying agricultural education.

“What Cornell brings to the table is a long-standing disciplinary expertise in agricultural ed that we just don’t have here [at Ithaca College],” said Copenhaver-Johnson.

“What we offer is this really carefully structured sequence that builds the rest of the teacher educator’s profile and that allows them to be part of an interdisciplinary mix.” said Copenhaver-Johnson.

Students interested in an agricultural education graduate program will enroll in Ithaca College’s Masters of Arts in Teaching program.

The program will primarily funnel Cornell agricultural undergraduates into Ithaca’s 13-month graduate education program, but candidates from other schools can also apply.

Agricultural education students will join other candidates of diverse disciplines in Ithaca’s M.A.T. program.

All education graduate students at Ithaca College take a total of 36-credits, spending the majority of their time taking fundamental teaching courses with candidates of all concentrations.

Nine credits are devoted to continued education in a candidate’s discipline. Agricultural students will fulfill those credits by taking three courses from faculty affiliated with Cornell.

Perry said he will develop one new course, a capstone based on visiting programs across New York State, at Cornell. Students will take existing education courses at Ithaca.

The graduate degree is designed to prepare students to work as agriculture teachers throughout New York and the rest of the country.

“An undergraduate or graduate coming out with teacher certification is also extremely marketable across the agricultural industry. So they then start being pulled into the industry for fairly lucrative salaries plus some really great opportunities,” said Perry.

Hannah Milligan, a senior at Cornell studying animal science and education, said she is thrilled to pursue agricultural education and will apply to the Ithaca graduate program.

“It’s always been something that means a lot to me,” Milligan said. “To be educating younger kids on where their food comes from, how they get it, how to produce, how it’s marketed, things like that.”

Poverty Trends in the United States

Many are unaware of the issue of poverty in our society, but even more people are uneducated about those who are most likely to be living in poverty: children. In fact, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 22 percent of all children live in families who have an income below the federal poverty level, for a family of four this is $23,500 or less a year. This means that 16 million children in the United States may deal with an inadequate quality of life.

This was not always the trend of poverty in the United States, between 1960 and 1995, the poverty rate for the elderly decreased drastically from 35 percent to 10 percent, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Poverty is a huge threat to children’s ability to learn, and this increasingly problematic trend in the United States needs to be assessed. Our fiscal policy and poverty alleviation should be focused more on education for children and other policies that will benefit children who need it most.

Over 30 percent of families led by single women are living in poverty, according to the U.S. Census. This is in comparison to 16.4 percent of families led by single dads. In an article in Slate, they acknowledge that the gender difference in American Poverty Rates isn’t new news, but the continual reiteration of these numbers illustrates the drastic need to focus on these growing trends in the country.

United States focused on elderly poverty and ensured that those rates went down, now it’s important to shift our focus to the children and single mothers suffering from poverty.

What do you think? How can we change these trends?

‘Poverty Porn’ and What’s Wrong With It

In my journalism classes, I’m taught to find a narrative anecdote to start my stories. The key is to begin each story with a human element because otherwise the reader will get bored and stop reading after the second sentence. So when reporting on poverty, journalists search out those affected the worst, stories that will make the audience stop and think about their life, and sometimes go on to donate money to an organization fighting to alleviate poverty.

But that’s where their interaction ends.

They donate $50 and move with their life, feeling good about their contribution to society and that poor undeserving person suffering. This journalistic work is called “poverty porn,” where an extreme case is highlighted for all the bleeding hearts in the world. And that’s the biggest problem with this type of journalism. Poverty isn’t just a picture of a starving child or a junkie. It’s much more than that.

Poverty Porn glosses over the real human element of the issue; it doesn’t spend the time to acknowledge this person past their suffering. And more importantly it doesn’t recognize those in poverty deemed less “severe.” Poverty has more than one face, and while it does encompass those that accompany shocking photos, it also includes a family that can’t afford all the desired necessities, a recovering addict, and basic quality-of-life issues.

The problem is that these stories don’t elicit the desired response. Our society responds to the extreme cases while ignoring the norm. This is partly to blame on the media who perpetuates the issue. However, it’s also a societal dilemma.

As journalists, we must realize that poverty porn does not result in activism but instead charity. Charity is an important aspect to alleviated poverty, but the problem cannot be solved without a structural change. The media must find a way to emphasize the problem without falling into our materialized solutions. We need to solve the problem in a sustainable way and represent the issue as such.

What do you think? Have you seen ‘poverty porn’ in the media?

Ithaca YMCA Healthy Kids Day

Amie Hamlin, executive director of New York Coalition for Healthy School Food pauses from mixing her smoothie to encourage a child to grab the light green mixture from the table.

The kids pause with apprehension before sipping the smoothie, but as soon as they’re finished, they’re clearly happy with their adventurous decision. The Super Hero Super Power smoothie is made from soymilk, apple, kale, ice cubes and bananas.

“I’m a huge green smoothie fan,” Hamlin said.  Hamlin says this is the 10th year anniversary of NYCHSF, which develops healthy recipes and educational resources for schools in Ithaca and New York City.

The Event

Hamlin is one of many vendors at Healthy Kids Day at the Ithaca YMCA. The event is free for families and is part of a national YMCA event to promote healthy physical activity.  Along with Hamlin, the vendors include the Tompkins County Library, Music and Motion, YMCA Karate, Dan the Snake Man, the Tompkins County Solid Waste, Armstrong School of Dance, ICircus and Cayuga Medical Center for Healthy Living.

Vendors like the Armstrong School of Dance performed for an audience, and many of the child performers spent the rest of the time enjoying the large bouncy house in the corner of the room, getting their face painted, or using mats to work on designated physical activities, like jumping jacks or wall sits.

YMCA hoped to have 100 kids attend the event, and according to Laurie Cuomo, Health and Wellness Director, they surpassed their goal. Cindy Gordon is one of many who attended the event with her three children. Her daughter, Brooke, is a part of the Armstrong School of Dance and the family attended the event to watch her performance.

Backstory of Healthy Kids Day

According to Cuomo, Healthy Kids Day is a community-organized event that includes not only the Ithaca YMCA, but also invites the community to “educate and celebrate healthy children.”

The event encourages both fun activities and more educational material, Cuomo said.  The event even provided healthy fruit snacks for the families as they participated in the activities.

Cuomo said that they promote,  “healthy lifestyles, so that will incorporate activities and recreational, physical fitness, nutrition, any spectrum.

When the YMCA first started to host the event, it originally “showcased just what we did in the YMCA, and then we decided to collaborate with the rest of the community,” says Cuomo.

Health in the United States

According to the American Heart Association, around one in three children and teenagers in the United States are overweight or obese and childhood obesity has become the number one health concern for kids in the United States.  Educational programs like the YMCA work to help combat these growing trends.

Encouraging children to partake in healthy activities, like those showcased at Healthy Kids Day, can lead to a lifetime of good choices.

“Eating healthy, and exercising, is really important to be happy and healthy,” Hamlin said.

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