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For many educators and those within the disability community, COVID-19 raised into focused view the limits and needs for adaptive access within education, the economy, and the institutions of care in everyday life. As schools and businesses shifted from in-person to online to reduce the pandemic’s spread, we saw widespread adoption of practices like tele-working, Zoom conferencing, etc. to allow for learning & working from home in ways that were not always present or supported prior. These changes haven’t been without stress for teachers, students, and families in the need to quickly adapt and to address disparities in computer or internet access, as well as access to the most essential of needs — food, shelter, medicine, healthcare, child and elder care. For many, COVID-19 raised heightened attention on the vast inequalities and inherent ableism in these systems that have existed all along.

At the beginning of the year, POP’s School Orchard Program aimed to explore how our orchard curriculum could become more accessible for learners of varied needs. As part of ongoing efforts to uplift equity and inclusion through our programming, we joined in partnership with Haverford College professor Josh Moses and students Ari Katz, Gale Bautista, and Lisa Li to investigate key conversations in the accessibility of nature / environmental education more broadly, and at POP orchard partner, The Overbrook School for the Blind, where we’ve been working over the last number of years to create sensory-based environmental education through our GrowAbility Collective.

Originally, our 10-week collaboration would have had the students involved in a range of projects including literature reviews, interviews with educators of special-needs students, shadowing, and curriculum writing. While many of the projects were interrupted due to the pandemic, we are thankful for the students’ sustained work and commitment to these issues that catalyzed them to record and share this podcast here, which investigates accessibility in nature and environmental education from a disability and environmental justice lens.

It’s our hope that these conversations serve as touchstone for the ongoing work of inclusion & accessibility in education.

This POP Blog Post was written by POP Education Director Alyssa Schimmel.

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: POP’s School Orchard Program is funded in part by the Rosenlund Family Foundation, the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation, and the Isenberg Family Fund.