Getting Funky with Fermentation – MS/HS Lesson (PDF Download)

Posted on Categories Blog, Cooking & Preservation, Home, Plants, POP Orchards, School Orchards & CurriculumTags , , , , , , , , ,

If there’s one thing we continually learn in offering our School Orchard Program it’s that culinary classes are always a hit with students and teachers alike! They’re hands-on and sensory-rich, foster team-work, collaboration, and creative thinking, and offer educators a breadth of content integration possibilities. Take for instance a recent summertime lesson on fermentation we offered at Sayre High School in West Philadelphia, where students of the after-school and summer garden programs, cultivate a garden of assorted vegetable and fruit crops they sell twice weekly (Tues. 3:45-5 @ Sayre Health Center and Weds. 4-5 @ Red Cross House (4000 Powelton Ave) in their CSA Good Food Bag for the surrounding community with special focus upon those using SNAP/EBT.

The hands-on session provided an entry point to discussing regional culinary traditions informed by planned and local plant ecologies, botanical families of plants featured in the recipe and the school garden & orchard, and culinary science and biological processes, all while creating space for students to hatch new ideas of entrepreneurship & creating value-added products for the program from the landscape (a particular desire students expressed). What can we say? Orchards lend themselves naturally to interdisciplinary learning that feeds curiosity and awareness of interdependence at the same time they nourish with fresh food.

The lesson began by situating the timeliness of the material seasonally — asking students what methods of food preservation they might use at the peak of the season when they have more vegetables, fruits, and herbs harvested than they know what to do with. They shared a number of responses: canning, freezing, drying, pickling, and of course, donating and sharing the harvest with others — and then the funky one that packs a particular punch on the palette — fermentation. We sampled examples of fermented foods like sourdough bread, sauerkraut, and fizzy, fermented tea-beverage, kombucha, noting the signature saliva-producing lactic bite of foods gone funky, explored the chemistry that’s enacted in the process, and then delved into the hands-on sauerkraut-making portion that could incorporate orchard herbs like bee balm, oregano, and thyme, commonly planted in most if not all POP community orchards.

High school students in the summer program at Sayre High School practice their culinary skills by chopping cabbage to make sauerkraut — learning fermentation as a food preservation method used for preserving the harvest.

During our session together, students also drew personal parallels to their own culinary memories and traditions. One student, Jonathan, shared how sauerkraut always reminded him of his grandfather because they enjoy kraut-topped hot dogs at baseball games together every summer. We also discussed how cultured foods literally create culture (not only for groups of people), but also for the populations of bacteria, fungi, and yeast of a particular region/place that can be shared over many years, topographies, and borders. Take a look at Ione Christensen of Canada, for instance, who’s been tending to a 120-year old culture of sourdough that traveled to her from her great-grandfather back in 1897. That’s one kickin’ culture!

What’s more as fodder to ponder, is what as fermentation revivalist Sandor Katz calls, ‘the miracle of coevolution – that the bacteria that coexist with us in our bodies enable us to exist.’ In The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World, Katz cites microbiologist Michael Wilson who notes “each surface of a human being is colonized by microbes exquisitely adapted to that particular environment” and in the era of the ‘war on bacteria,’ he advocates “the well-being of our microbial ecology requires replenishment and diversification now more than ever.” Equally relevant to the health of our digestive and immune systems in nourishing rich microbiomes, we also take this point for its application to organic orcharding. When we boost fertility and build fungal-rich soil through sheet-mulching, compost tea application and foliar sprays, the plants of the orchard thrive and and sustain themselves more readily from fending off other fungal or bacterial diseases, as noted organic orchardist and author Michael Phillips proposes.

May it be that the standards-based lesson materials available here as a PDF download — along with picture guide and handout — contribute in small part to the aim of  working in ever-closer harmony with the microbes of yeast, fungi, and bacteria that support the ecology of the orchards, our bodies, ourselves.

This POP Blog Post and Curriculum Materials were written by 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: phillyorchards.org/donate

2017 School Orchard Update & Linked PDF Lesson ‘Tea Time’

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, POP Orchards, School Orchards & CurriculumTags , , , , , , , , ,
Hartranft students harvest sour cherries from the school’s backyard orchard!

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. 

Sunny and Jonathan at Sayre HS tended to the peach tree – thinning early set fruit & plucking away peach leaf curl!

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!

A hearty harvest! Students at Overbrook School for the Blind learned about brambling fruit like blackberries, raspberries, and golden raspberries

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.” 

Families came out to plant trees and herbs at Tilden Middle School and Bartram High School’s spring planting day!

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! 

Sayre HS students Najeer and Danny blend dry herbs including mountain mint, lemon balm, peppermint, and fennel into soothing herbal tea bags!

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 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.