Ayana Verdi​

Verdi EcoSchool, Melbourne, Fla.

In 2016, Ayana established Verdi EcoSchool to provide hands-on educational experiences for children in the historic Eau Gallie Arts District in Melbourne, Florida. Originally created to offer enrichment options for homeschool families, the Verdi EcoSchool quickly grew to become the first K-8 urban farm school in the southeastern United States. As part of the educational program, the classroom is extended to unique settings: exploring the waters of the local Indian River Lagoon, learning about restorative agriculture on a community garden and creating replicas of ancient First Nations tools in ceramics classes at the Foosaner Art Museum and Education Center.

Ayana is extending her successful K-8 program and is founding a new high school model that incorporates hands-on, immersive learning through practical, real-world internships. The high school will continue to build on the foundations of the urban garden K-8 that emphasize understanding ecology, community partnerships, and individualized learning. In addition, the high school will feature partnerships with universities and other institutions working to create sustainable agriculture and protect the environment.

Ayana’s educational and professional journey has included studies in both the United States and New Zealand as she pursued a degree in Veterinary Medicine while operating a canine wellness spa in New York City. Inspired by the nature-based school her son attended while she lived and studied in New Zealand, Ayana is committed to cultivating community-based and environmentally aware educational options for children.