2017 was the kickoff year for POP’s new School Orchard Program. In collaboration with POP’s 12 school orchard partners from around the city, we began developing a framework and database of materials to activate school orchards as centers of learning and exploration for students from kindergarten to college.
Beginning in the early winter while the fruit trees were still dormant, we met with partner teachers, parents, grandparents, community members, and students to hear and discuss what each visioned for their school orchard and learn how POP could support sites through educational programming.
The responses were rich and varied. Along with the topics of hands-on orchard care, ecology, sustainability, nutrition, cooking, botany, mycology, art, and entrepreneurship, school partners were most excited about the the core of the work: teaching students to grow — food, life-skills, and connections, that could nourish community in deep and tangible ways.
POP’s 2017 pilot program began with Sayre High School, Overbrook School for the Blind, and Tilden Middle School with ongoing lessons in the field and classroom — reflective of the students’ and teachers’ interests. Lessons were also offered at UPenn Netter Center partner Lea Elementary, Hartranft Middle School, Penn Alexander Elementary, South Philly High School, Cramp Elementary, Greenfield Elementary, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Park.
Students were eager to dive in! As the seasons progressed, students at these sites planted fruit trees and shrubs, thinned fruit, trained fruit tree branches, harvested and pruned blackberries and brambles, made fermented plant fertilizers, identified local weeds and herbs as food and medicine, planted perennials to support threatened insect pollinators, inoculated mushrooms, and more!
Across all sites, POP was able to teach 250 students through 44 school visits, with 14 formal lessons delivered in 2017.
Garden and literacy teacher Cole Jadrosich of Tilden Middle School shared how the orchard has impacted his students. In an article about POP in GROW magazine, he said, “Working in the garden and with the trees gives us the raw material for all sorts of learning. It’s not just more worksheets, more math drills. If we find a caterpillars, students can look it up in the library. We’ve turned food from the garden into smoothies and sandwiches, trying new things. We’re learning from nature as we bring it into our neighborhood.”
Ongoing collaboration with partners forms the basis of POP’s developing multidisciplinary curriculum and our database of downloadable lessons that will continue to grow well into 2018 and beyond. Each lesson pack will contain lesson plan with targeted Pennsylvania State Standards for Education, teacher guide, and handouts.
The first PDF pack of materials for Tea Time: Exploring Orchard Herbs through the Senses – suitable for grades 6-12 is available here: Lesson Plan; Teacher’s Guide; Handout; Photo Guide. This lesson was piloted at Sayre HS in the fall, where four core, committed students in the after-school gardening program said they wanted to learn how to make value-added products like tea-bags to add to their weekly CSA.
In this lesson, students tasted teas made from different orchard herbs, explored the different flavors and medicinal actions of common orchard plants, learned harvest and drying methods, and formulated their very own tea blends!
In 2018, POP plans to launch new monthly, downloadable lesson guides, co-author school literature guides with The Philadelphia Free Library for use in classrooms across the city, and to host other creative, seasonal offerings for students of all ages. Stay tuned!
If you’re interested in volunteering with our school orchard sites, becoming an orchard liaison at a school orchard site, or participating with curriculum development and collaboration, please contact Education Director Alyssa Schimmel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SUPPORT US! If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia: phillyorchards. org/donate.