tressSource: Overbrook School for the Blind Tower News Fall 2015

Overbrook School for the Blind has taken great strides in recent years to enhance the quality of our campus in the city by creating a healthy (and beautiful!) learning environment.

The most visible development has been the OSB Edible Orchard Project which is largely located on the west side of campus. For the past few years, we’ve partnered with The Philadelphia Orchard Project, an organization which plants and supports community orchards in the city, to plant over 25 trees and shrubs along our Walking Path, from the front gate to White Hall. Varieties of fig, chestnut, apple, pear, plum, and cherry trees now dot the landscape and are already bearing fruit. A small garden of berries—strawberries, black- berries and raspberries—has been placed along one side of the pathway. Further in near the paved walkway, a pollinator garden of lemon balm, purple coneflower, and aster has been planted to attract bees.

Planted by OSB and Philadelphia Orchard Project volunteers, the Edible Orchard services OSB’s Farm to Table Food Program. “The fruit from our orchard, as well as the bounty grown in the garden boxes planted with vegetables near Lions Hall, is consumed by students and staff in our lunchroom, and some is sent home with the students,” says Roseann McLaughlin, OSB Health Services and Farm to Table Coordinator.

This summer, OSB School To Work student, Njema Lennox, was hired to maintain and cultivate OSB’s vegetable and herb boxes. “The best part of working for the Farm to Table Program was taking care of the plants and picking the vegetables when they were ready,” says Njema. “The produce was then sold at our Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays during the summer.”

In the future, OSB students who are interested in gardening will receive training, learn how to maintain the garden beds, and assist with the retail work of the Farmers’ Market, thereby practicing employment skills.

Some of our students already have experience getting their hands dirty as they have learned about textured plants and fragrant flowers from OSB Board Member and Alumna Peggy Garrett, OSB Class of 1951. Since 1996, Peggy and her gardening group, called “The Hands On Gardeners of Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired,” have adopted and cared for the garden outside of the Nevil Center. “It’s so good for the students to touch, smell, and enjoy the plants, so good for their spirit,” says Ms. Garrett. “The landscape has always been important at OSB. When I was a student here, I used to say that I go to school in a park.”

fruitOur “green” tradition continues at OSB. A fully accessible and adaptive greenhouse, located on the north side of campus between Lions Hall and the Main Building, is planned for the Spring of 2017. Offering a rich sensory experience, the OSB Greenhouse will teach students how to identify the shapes, smells, and textures of various plants, and how to care for them. There will be room for planting, making crafts, and practicing science studies, and students will one day sell herbs, flowers, and vegetables, for experience with retail work.

In essence, OSB has updated the use and flow of many areas on campus which has transformed learning spaces, enhanced the campus walkability, and created open spaces that unify important buildings and landscapes. While our OSB colors may be red and white, our campus in the city is definitely green.

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