2018 School Orchard Program Recap & A Look Ahead to 2019

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In 2018, POP’s School Orchard Program continued to expand in offering unique, engaging, and hands-on learning activities for students, centered in 9 of 12 POP partner school orchards. In total, we offered 26 unique topical lessons, created 6 downloadable lesson and material packs for teachers to use in their classrooms, made 440 total student impressions through staff visits and lesson plan delivery, and created pre- and post-school year surveys to collect orchard metrics that have value for structuring our programming. All of our delivered programming is centered around our school partners’ learning objectives of those of their students and communities.

Last year, we developed and delivered lessons on key orchard fruits and pollinator orchard herbs like blackberries, persimmons, bee balm, anise hyssop, and thyme, that have high nutrient and medicinal value, are well-adapted to this growing region, propagate easily, and have promise for small-scale home or community food production. Students at Sayre High School in West Philly and Richard Allen Preparatory School learned the Japanese traditional persimmon string-drying method of hoshigaki. We experimented with the astringent Hachiya and non-astringent Fuyu varieties, finding them to work equally as well, and less so with the American persimmon, whose softer flesh makes it better suited for puddings and breads!

Sixth and eighth graders at Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School peel persimmons as the first step in string-drying, using the traditional Japanese method of hoshigaki.
Two weeks later, students at Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School test the progress of their drying persimmons.
Students at Sayre High School get ready to add their strung persimmons to their drying window of garden-grown herbs and peppers

In 2018, we also honored the life of Roseann McLaughlin, the beloved, foundational visionary behind Overbrook School for the Blind’s Farm-to-Table Program. Continuing in her legacy through GrowAbility, we continued to work with a consortium of 10 organizational partners working to adapt orchard and agricultural curriculum for special needs students. POP created sensory lesson books and tactile prop boxes on honeybees, worms, apples, and herbs of the orchard understory, which are being adapted and replicated at partner sites all over the city.

Overbrook School for the Blind’s Lee Stough leads students on a full sensory journey of the honeybee, using POP’s story book and interactive, tactile prop box.

Using art, dance, and music, we delivered kinesthetic-focused lessons at new orchard partners like William Cramp Elementary School in North Philly, where students learned about root structures while tending to the weeds in their school’s orchards and danced the different structures they found! With support from Mural Arts, students also made collaborative exquisite corpse drawings, drawing themselves as part-humans, part-plants while learning about the functional parts of plants. With retired-but-returning teacher Dr. Ruiz, an incredibly knowledgeable resource and student advocate, students learned how to make egg shell gardens and how to seed plants from avocado pits, a common staple for many of the school’s students. We continue to use art to facilitate students’ understanding of the natural and built environment.

Cramp Elementary School’s Dr. Ruiz prepares for a lesson on egg-shell gardening with 4th grade students.

In 2019, POP’s School Orchard Program has identified two key learning initiatives: education around protecting pollinator habitats, and work on natural dyes and pigments. This winter, we’re welcoming 4 undergraduate environmental studies students from Swarthmore for 10 weeks, who will be working with us on researching the crisis of pollinator population decline and ways we can intercept through the seeding of useful host plants. We’ll be working on a large seed ball project to seed these plants in the gardens and understories of our school partners, in addition to making these resources available to the wider community. We’ll be piloting a natural dyeing component with several schools this year, which will include a fall student showcase. This year we’ve also begun to work more closely with the Mayor’s Office of Education; through their work with community schools and includes several of our school partners, we’ll be creating a database of some simple garden projects for teachers and students, and sharing our newly created nutrition and recipe cards for use with classrooms and school food pantries, available in both English and Spanish (with special thanks to Camille Crane of Casa del Carmen for translating!).

If you are interested in getting involved in any of these school orchard 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.  Our School Orchard Program is funded in part by the Lawrence Saunders Fund and the Rosenlund Family Foundation.

Teaching Tomorrow’s Tenders – POP’s School Orchard Update Spring-Summer 2018

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

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.

We’ve had a busy and bountiful spring season with POP’s School Orchard program and community educational initiatives. Since January, we’ve delivered 17 lessons to 6 school orchard partners (William L. Sayre High School, William T. Tilden Middle School, Henry C. Lea Elementary School, Overbrook School for the Blind, Penn Alexander School, John F. Hartranft School) and reached 210 students.

 

In early spring we released a quantitative and qualitative survey to our 12 school partners to receive feedback on the learning priorities and desired outcomes of each unique program so that we might offer meaningful and objective-aligned programatic services to partners. In addition to increasing engagement — getting more students out and into the school orchards to plant, maintain, and harvest from the orchards — school educators identified goals of building responsible students leaders who are literate and actively engaged in food systems work, and integrating school day programming through the gardens (Sayre HS, West Philly), to cultivating independent stewardship and increasing product creation (Tilden MS, West Philly), to having students actively engaged in the natural environments of the school grounds and understanding storm water management and natural technologies (Lea ES, West Philly).

Megan Brookens, POP’s Repair the World Fellow ’17-’18, assists second graders at Lea Elementary School in seeding plants representing the different parts of the plant we harvest for food: root, leaf, flower, and fruit.

To meet these aims this season, some of the lessons we offered included:
  • creating value-added products from the orchard: herbal tea bags and salves, wild edible identification and making infused vinegars
  • food preservation methods and traditions: sauerkraut fermentation
  • direct orchard-care topics including plant propagation; pruning; planting annual fruiting crops; planting by seed, start, and cuttings; and treating pest and disease with organic management practices.
We also created dynamic sensory-activity storybooks on honeybees and earthworms for use with students at Overbrook School for the Blind, which will be released as downloadable PDFs in a forthcoming POP blog. The honeybee lesson guidebook will be adapted for pilot use with 10 special needs classrooms citywide this fall through the GrowAbility Education Collective which joins partners including Overbrook School for the Blind, Elwyn, Easterseals, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Penn State Master Gardeners, Greener Partners, Philadelphia Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center, 4-H, Associated Services for the Blind, in adapting agricultural curriculum for special needs communities.

Students at Overbrook School for the Blind planted strawberries in the school’s courtyard Farm-to-Table garden.

Later this summer through fall, POP will also unveil a new community education initiative in conjunction with our POPHarvest gleaning program – which will host community teachers from a range of traditions to lead workshops geared around underutilized fruits and herbs of our orchards. Look out for classes on Caribbean foodways and cooking – spotlight on thyme and burdock with Nyambi Royster of Lighthouse Orchard; herbal oxymel making with Kelly McCarthy of Attic Apothecary; trifoliate fire cider making with Al Pascal of Fikira Bakery; gingko history and nut processing with naturalist LJ Brubaker; and hawthorn medicine making with Julia Aguilar. If you’re interested in leading a community workshop, reach out to Education Director Alyssa Schimmel (alyssa@phillyorchards.org) and Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer (michael@phillyorchards.org).

This POP program update 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