One of this year’s goals for POP’s School Orchard Program was to compile more research and resources for making orchard education accessible for learners of all ability levels. This work was intended to build off our work with the GrowAbility collective, focusing on special needs students at Overbrook School for the Blind and other schools, where we’ve been working with a number of partner organizations to create adaptable sensory lesson kits.

With the developing global pandemic of COVID-19 and the widespread closure of schools and many businesses, accessibility in education has never been more important to POP as city residents and students (of all ages & abilities) are recommended to socially distance at home to prevent the spread of the virus. In response, more students are turning their learning attention online, or, even better (when done while safely observing 6 ft distance recommendations and sanitation measures), in the orchards & gardens directly.

Stay tuned – POP is currently working to build out more video learning content for our partners!

Raised garden beds at Overbrook School for the Blind enable students easy wheelchair, walker, or walking access for planting and harvesting. Teacher Lee Stough assists student Jonathan with planting bare root strawberries (Spring 2019).

We are thankful to be partnering with Haverford College environmental studies & anthropology assistant professor Josh Moses and his group of 3 independent study students from Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges (the Tri-College Consortium), introduced below They will be working with us during these unprecedented times over the course of 12 weeks to interview special needs teachers on recommended practices, write curriculum, and support these initiatives. The students are enrolled in Moses’s Spring 2020 ‘Environmental Studies Senior Seminar’, which provides seniors a chance to work with a community partner and apply practical skills in their senior capstones.

Centered around POP’s GrowAbility projects at OSB, Professor Moses and his fellow students designed a course with themes of disabilities studies, environmental education, special education, nature accessibility and inclusivity, and civic ecology.

POP also welcomes Ngoc Pham of Bryn Mawr College who will be working closely with Co-Executive Director Kim Jordan on POP’s outreach initiatives, and supporting the development of POP’s online learning content.

Now, to introduce you to our student researcher team!

Ari Katz

Hi! My name is Ari (she/her), I’m from Northbrook, Illinois, and I’m a senior Environmental Studies and Geology double major from Haverford College. I’m interested in issues of climate and environmental justice, particularly with respect to what we deem as natural, who natural spaces are typically built for, and how to expand access to those spaces. As someone with a fairly new lower-leg disability, I’ve also spent time reflecting my personal experiences with environmental/outdoor education and thinking about how it can be accessible. I’m curious about the broader intersections of environmental studies and critical disability studies, as well, and I’m incredibly excited to explore my interests through this partnership with POP and OSB!

Lisa Li (no photo provided)

My name is Lisa (she/her) and I am a senior Environmental Studies major from Bryn Mawr College. I have always seen the connection between society, humanities and the natural world, so when I was given a chance to major in a field that allows me to explore the intersection between all three, I seized the opportunity. Some particular issues that inspired me to study environmental studies were the social injustices that are correlated to environmental degradation caused by effects of modern development and globalization. Therefore, my self-designed focus areas within my major are environmental justice, sustainable development and international policy. As a believer in “act locally, change globally,” I am excited to work with POP to further explore ways to make environmental education more accessible and inclusive for students with vision impairment and other disabilities. 

Abigail Bautista (Gale)

Abigail Bautista (she/her/hers) – or Gale – is currently a sophomore from Swarthmore College from Dallas, TX and is a prospective English Literature and Educational Studies Honors Special Major pursuing Elementary ESL Certification. Although she specializes in environmental literature, curriculum development, and ESL education, she is especially interested in exploring the intersections between environmental education and critical disability studies in hopes of fostering more accessible educational spaces and reflecting on her own experiences as someone who is legally half-blind. Through the partnership with Overbrook School for the Blind and work with the Environmental Studies Senior Capstone, she hopes to learn more about how to integrate effective curricular programming about environmental issues within classrooms and meaningful community partnerships.

Ngoc Pham

Ngoc Pham is a junior majoring in Growth and Structures of Cities in Bryn Mawr College. Using an anthropological and ethnographical approach to urban study, she is exploring her interest in urban sustainability, urban livability, and urban design. Joining POP, Ngoc is looking forward to learning practical knowledge about urban ecosystems and the way urban communities strive for and benefit from green spaces.

If you are interested in getting involved in any of these School Orchard Program initiatives, please reach out to Education Director Alyssa Schimmel, alyssa@phillyorchards.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.  POP’s School Orchard Program is funded in part by the Rosenlund Family Foundation, the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation, and the Isenberg Family Fund.