ISSUE BRIEFING: Threats to Honeybee & Native Bee Populations and What You Can Do!

Posted on Categories Beneficial Insects, Blog, Home, School Orchards & CurriculumTags , ,

This issue briefing comes to us from Daria Syskine and Bethany Bronkema, two of the four student researchers from Swarthmore who spent 10 weeks with POP this spring researching and developing resources for our School Orchard Program on addressing threatened pollinator habitat.  This is an issue vital to POP, as nearly all of our fruit crops are dependent on insect allies like bees for successful pollination and fruit production.  

Think “bee,” and you’ll probably picture the familiar European honeybee (Apis mellifera) – small, with gold and black bands across its belly. But before the European honeybee was introduced to North America, there were already 4,000 species of bees on this continent.

Pennsylvania is home to 300 native varieties of bees – including: large, fuzzy bumblebees (Bombus spp.) that love crops that honeybees can’t pollinate — blueberries, tomatoes, orchard crops; tiny, solitary iridescent sweat bees (Halictus spp.) that often snack on alfalfa, onion, and cane berry flowers; leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.); squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa); mason bees (Osmia spp.); mining bees (Andrena spp.); and more!

Although each of these varieties of bees have different life cycles and habitat needs – bumblebees, for example, live in small, perennial colonies with a queen and worker bees, while other types of bees are mostly solitary – they all rely on flower nectar and pollen for their food. 


From top to bottom: a bumblebee, squash bee, and a sweat bee. Photos credit: PSU Extension

Since native bees tend to specialize in a few plants, they help preserve local biodiversity while also filling in the gaps left by honeybee pollination. In fact, one study showed that on farms in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, wild bees provided most of the pollination for the studied crops; and unlike rented honeybee colonies, their services are free for farmers!

Unfortunately, native bees like their honeybee counterparts are under siege, and are experiencing sizable declines in their populations. Notably, the US Fish and Wildlife Service recently placed the rusty-patched bumblebee on their endangered list.

One major threat to bees is the overuse of pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, a class of neuro-active insecticides that disrupts the central nervous systems of insects and is commonly found being used in seed coatings (especially with corn, soy), ornamental plants, and as a pest-management spray. Their use has been linked to declines in bumblebee and honeybee populations, and studies have suggested that they may be harmful to mammals as well. Following a 2012 study by the European Food Safety Association sponsored by the European Commission, 8 nations of the European Union issued a ban on the insecticide, and in 2018 a total ban was issued, except within closed greenhouses. In 2014, under the Obama administration,
the United States EPA took action to regulate the insecticide based on concerns about pollinators, which has been reversed under the current administration. 

A warming climate, habitat fragmentation, spreading fungal and bacterial diseases are also all contributing to increasingly vulnerable bee populations. 

There are actions even individual gardens and farms can make a difference by becoming more bee-friendly. If you have a small garden, you can grow plants that flower at different times throughout the year; this supports a more diverse population of bees, since different bees are active at different times in the season. If you’re a farmer, you can let cover crops go to seed–this supports bee populations by providing flowers for them to collect pollen from. You can also use caution in choosing where you plant – many bees make nests in the ground, so planting in sunny, south-facing sloped ground could damage these nests. Minimizing the mowing of long grasses in meadows is helpful, as well as not removing excessive amounts of weeds. And whether you’re a home gardener or a farmer, you can probably afford to reduce your pesticide use by turning to integrated pest management instead.

Finally, everyone can plant more natives. Since native plants have co-evolved with native bees, it’s an ideal pairing. Introducing more of these plants for wild bees to pollinate will also increase the support of the bee population. Many beautiful varieties are available for any Pennsylvania garden, from red columbines to Virginia bluebells to showy goldenrod.


From top to bottom: a bumblebee on Culver’s root,
a European honeybee on Ohio spiderwort; and a bumblebee on wild bergamot. Photos from
PSU Extension.

If you’re not sure where to start, a lot of resources are available. Pennsylvania recently published the Pennsylvania Pollinator Protection Plan, which lays out ways to protect native bee populations, among other native pollinators. It contains detailed information and resources for suburban homeowners, farmers, and municipal planners. Penn State has also started a Pollinator Garden Certification program. By following the steps outlined on their website, you can transform your garden into a haven for bumblebees. The Pennsylvania Native Plant Society is another great resource on local efforts to expand and support native plantings. For additional advice on region-specific issues, the Xerces Society’s list of resources offers many options.

You could also consider getting involved on a national scale. The Xerces Society has started a campaign called Bring Back the Pollinators, in which participants pledge to make their gardens more pollinator-friendly; they also run Bumblebee Watch, a citizen science group to track North American bee populations and collect data for conservation purposes. The Pollinator Partnership is a nonprofit running many different programs across North America, all with the goal of protecting pollinator populations. 

So next time you’re taking a walk outside, stop and smell the roses… and take a minute to be grateful for the many species bees our lives rely upon!

Resources:

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/02/rusty-patched-bumblebee-endangered-species/514388/

https://extension.psu.edu/conserving-wild-bees-in-pennsylvania

https://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/insects/rpbb/

https://www.phillyvoice.com/delco-one-few-remaining-homes-endangered-rusty-patched-bumblebee/

https://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-nws-pennsylvania-pollination-plan-20170929-story.html

https://ento.psu.edu/pollinators/pollin-spotlight-items/the-pennsylvania-pollinator-protection-plan-p4

https://ento.psu.edu/pollinators/public-outreach/cert

https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2007.01418.x

https://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/pa-nj-native-bee-benefits1.pdf

https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/EHP515

https://www.the-scientist.com/daily-news/neonicotinoids-may-harm-wild-bees-33019

This POP Blog Post was written by 2019 Swarthmore student researchers Daria Syskine and Bethany Bronkema.  

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.

Introducing POP’s Bilingual Rainbow Nutrition & Recipe Cards — Available for Download

Posted on Categories Blog, Cooking & Preservation, Harvesting, Home, Plants, POPharvests, Recipes, School Orchards & CurriculumTags , , , , , , , , ,

In surveying our 62 orchard partners through our annual orchard partner survey, we heard that some fruit gets picked before it’s ripe and that some partners wanted more information to share with their community members on how to harvest, store, and prepare common or native fruits of their orchards. This feedback has been pretty common to hear for us, as developing fruit on the tree inspires the natural curiosity (& hunger) of many, checking to see when the fruit is ripe and ready to eat!

In response to this, POP has developed 2 sets of bi-lingual Rainbow Nutrition & Recipe cards for use by community partners, teachers, and culinary educators alike  — focused on common fruits of the orchard (and ones likely to be found in grocery stores and some corner-store markets), as well as on native fruits of our region, and ones that are easy to cultivate and care for in small or home-scale spaces. Inspired by conversations with Penn State Nutrition Links’ nutritionist and educator Suzanne Weltman, these cards can be considered the first installment of other series of collectible recipe cards that be expanded by other organizations to include herbs and/or vegetables.

These cards also fit into POP’s CORE: Community Orchard Resilience Education series with POP CORE 3: Plants, Fungi, and What To Do With Them (offered twice yearly in March and September — check out our upcoming session on March 19th) covering how to make use of seasonal harvests and POPHarvestEd, now in our second year, which welcomes community teachers to lead workshops on under-known plants of the orchards with hands-on and take-home harvest, food and/or group medicine-making!

Children plant bare root strawberries along with POP Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer at Casa del Carmen, last spring 2018.

In an effort to make our materials accessible to a wider community, we offer them in English and Spanish. We offer our gratitude to orchard partners Camille Crane of Casa del Carmen for translation assistance and Gabriella Vechio of the Master Gardener Pollinator Garden, Food Forest Orchard, and Edible Demonstration Garden at the Fairmount Park Horticultural Center for offering help with proofreading.

Gabriela Vecino is a Penn State Master Gardener trainee 2018-19, whose interest in native plants, pollinator habitats, and wild life refuges has inspired her to volunteer in three garden projects at the Fairmount Park Horticulture Center. Originally from Uruguay, Gabriela moved in 2003 to Minnesota with her family where she lived for 5 years, and while working at the UofM learned about the extension programs and joined the community or growers! 

The cards have been uploaded to our Resource Pages for your use, and POP will be printing a run of the cards to use in our School Orchard program and available during tabling events for a small donation. We also plan to share these materials with other organizations working to offer nutrition programming in communities throughout the city.

Have a creative idea for you or your organization would like to make use of these cards in your programming? Tell us! We’d love to share your stories and experiences. Have a recipe to share? Email Education Director Alyssa Schimmel at alyssa@phillyorchards.org to share your recipes and stories through our blog or printed materials.

This POP Blog Post was drafted 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: phillyorchards.org/donate

Supporting Threatened Pollinator Habitats & Introducing our Swarthmore Student Researcher Team

Posted on Categories Beneficial Insects, Blog, Home, POP Orchards, School Orchards & CurriculumTags , , , , , , , ,

We here at POP are excited to share that we have been paired with 4 student researchers from Swarthmore College, who will be working with us over 8 weeks through POP’s School Orchard Program to create educational materials around building habitat for threatened pollinator species.

Over the course of these 8 weeks, students will have a range of research-based and hands-on learning activities including researching and writing issue-briefings, interviewing professionals in the fields of pollinator habitat loss and restoration, writing lesson plans, starting seedlings for pollinator-friendly species to distribute to community partners at the Fairmount Park Horticultural Center’s Community Propagation Program, and hosting a seed-ball making workshop to share ready-to-grow seeds and info-sheets to community partners, volunteers, and the wider public.

The students are enrolled in Professor Elizabeth Susan Bolton and Associate Professor Christopher Graves’ Spring 2019 ‘Intro to Environmental Studies’ class, which provides a broad introduction to the interdisciplinary work of environmental studies through an historical lens and examines options for action using tools from the sciences and social sciences. Built around the themes of tragedy of the commons, rights and environmental justice, sustainable development, population growth and tipping points, global climate change science and debate, and community adaptation and resilience, among others, students in this course are matched up with local environmental organizations to gain hands-on experience in the direct services of community-powered environmental work.

Since 2007, The Philadelphia Orchard Project has been working with community partners throughout the city to plant community orchards filled with fruiting trees, shrubs, and companion plantings of useful, perennial herbs that fill out the orchard understory, providing nectar sources for a variety of honeybees, native bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, and other beneficial insects that support fruit pollination and the wider ecosystem. Now in our 12th year, POP has planted 1,258 trees to date; 2,784 shrubs and vines; 20,111 perennial flowers, herbs and ground covers; and supports 62 orchards throughout the city — and, we’re growing!

A richly planted orchard understory at Penn Park Orchard with swamp milkweed supporting monarch butterflies, bronze fennel for various species of wasps, echinacea, a vital food source for a number of bird species, and anise hyssop, beloved by honeybees.

POP officially launched its School Orchard Program in 2017 with the hiring of Alyssa Schimmel, twice-term POP intern, to provide more direct support to school orchard partners in making use of their school’s orchards with standards-based curriculum focused on environmental stewardship and subject integration in natural sciences, nutrition & food science, art, reading, entrepreneurship, civic engagement, social sciences, and math.

POP actively supports 13 school orchard partners with quarterly seasonal care and once or twice(*) quarterly lessons at schools including William L. Sayre High School(*), Overbrook School for the Blind(*), Henry C. Lea Elementary School(*),William Cramp School(*), William T. Tilden Middle School, John Bartram High School, Albert M. Greenfield School, , South Philadelphia High School,  John F. Hartranft School, Philadelphia Montessori School, Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School, Penn Alexander School, and the Philadelphia School District’s Fox Chase Farm. Since its launch, POP’s School Orchard Program has offered 40 lessons and has made 690 student impressions.

Through POP’s website, we have created and continue to offer downloadable lesson plan packs for teachers at our sites and across the city available through our Curriculum Resources and POP Handouts & Resources pages. 

In response to growing reports of widespread insect and pollinator population decline from restoration ecologists, entomologists, plant ecologists, and researchers including organizations like Xerces Society, which manages the largest pollinator conservation program in the world, POP’s School Orchard Program decided to focus on one of our long-held priorities of supporting pollinator habitat with building out curriculum resources for teachers at our partners sites and across the city. As part of this project, POP will also be showcasing the work of several local experts in the field working in our region on this issue and creating grade-level appropriate lesson plans for early-elementary, middle, high school, and special needs students.  

Johnny’s Selected Seeds has signed on to support this initiative through their Charitable Giving Program. They’ll be providing beneficial insect seed mixes to POP, allowing us to make and distribute seed balls to school and orchard partners throughout the city, and we’ll be working to support Doug Sponsler of the Center for Pollinator Research‘s work on wild nesting bees by encouraging 50-100 garden or orchard partners to place bee hotels in their landscape and collect data on nesting patterns toward their citizen science data collection. The program will take place on March 16th at the Education Center of Awbury Arboretum’s Agricultural Village from 10am-1pm. 

We’ll be posting updates in our program’s progress to the blog, so follow along! If you’re interested in getting involved in this work, in helping us craft seed-balls, claim bee hotels for your orchard site, or distribute info packs to community groups, and/or our school or community orchard partners, please email Education Director Alyssa Schimmel, alyssa@phillyorchards.org.

Now, to introduce you to our student researcher team!

Aaron Urquidez  

I am from Phoenix, Arizona but am currently a student at Swarthmore College. I love the outdoors, watching the sunrise, and sun bathing. While outdoors my favorite activities are running, hiking, and camping. As a first year I am very excited about getting out into the larger community to help volunteer with low-income communities. I am very interested in learning how to cultivate an orchard and watch the flowers blossom. Not only do I wish to educate children from local schools, but I hope that they can teach me more about myself and my passions.

Bethany Bronkema

Hi! My name is Bethany Bronkema and I am a freshman at Swarthmore College.  I am interested in majoring in Engineering and Environmental Studies. I’m from Strasburg, Pennsylvania, a small town in Lancaster County.  Because of this background, I have some experiences in small-scale agriculture and love being outdoors, especially while hiking or working in my garden.  I am very excited to experience the ways that agriculture can be implemented in urban environments. I am also interested in learning about pollinators and how they can affect fruit production locally.  

Momi / Cecilia Jeschke

I’m Cecilia Jeschke but I go by Momi, I am from Hilo, Hawaii where the conservation of native species and ecosystems is crucial. I attend Swarthmore college, where I am studying environmental engineering. I am hoping to get more exposure to the types of programs Pennsylvania has through the Philadelphia Orchard Project, and learn more about how the conservation and restoration of species is handled in an urban setting.


Here’s a photo of me posing with a particularly tall pine-drop plant, while backpacking in the Sierra Nevada!

Daria Syskine

My name is Daria Syskine. I’m a student at Swarthmore, and I’m very excited to be joining the Philadelphia Orchard Project as part of our Intro to Environmental Studies class! My long-term goal is to become a researcher in ecology and/or conservation biology. I’ve had a bit of experience with outdoors education already. I volunteered for several years in a nature center at a local park; during that time I was a curator and docent, answering visitor’s questions about local ecology, designing displays on food webs and biodiversity, and giving talks to school students during the park’s summer camp. I’m hoping that by participating in POP, I’ll get to use and improve my communication skills for environmental issues. And I’m looking forward to learn a lot about permaculture, urban ecology, orchard care, and environmental justice in Philadelphia. Most of all, I’m happy for the opportunity to get engaged with the POP community and the wider Philadelphia community!

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.  

Honoring Roseann McLaughlin and GrowAbility Honeybee Sensory Lesson Book (PDF Download)

Posted on Categories Beneficial Insects, Blog, Home, POP Orchards, School Orchards & CurriculumTags , , , , , , , , , , ,

Roseann McLaughlin (far right) along with staff at Overbrook School for the Blind during a groundbreaking ceremony for the school’s new greenhouse program.

It’s with deep sadness that we at the Philadelphia Orchard Project offer our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, and community of Roseann McLaughlin of Overbrook School for the Blind, who passed November 2, 2018 in a tragic house fire. Roseann was the enthusiastic and loving cornerstone of the school’s Farm-To-Table program begun in 2013, which connected Overbrook students to healthy food, on-site gardening opportunities, an ever-expanding school orchard, and in-development greenhouse. She served at the school for 15 years as a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Practitioner, and Health Services Coordinator, and was recounted lovingly by staff and the larger community as one of the most encouraging, dedicated, and positive people and team members, who always had a kind word of support to share and a new idea to explore that could expand students’ horizons. She had the unique gift of making everyone feel appreciated — from staff who had known her for many years, to volunteers who came in to lend a hand, even for an afternoon.

In March 2017, she initiated a new collaborative curriculum endeavor named GrowAbility with agricultural educators around the city — including OverbrookElwyn, and Easter Seals schools, POP, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Penn State Extension, 4-H, Associated Services for the Blind, Philadelphia Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center, Greener Partners, and others — to asses how garden curriculum could be adapted for special needs students. In our last meeting together, we brainstormed ideas for new projects like making music from the plants of the orchard with a device that could translate plants’ electrical signaling into music, and could be felt by students with deep-bodily sensory-input needs through students’ vibratory backpacks. She delighted in the collaboration of new ideas, how they germinated, and grew. Her giving heart, commitment to her work and community, and her service-oriented spirit was unparalleled and will be sorely missed as a project partner we are blessed to have had, and as a kindred friend. It’s our deep wish that the continuation of this work honors her legacy for all those who were blessed to know her and carry her intentions and plans forward.

A GoFundMe campaign has been established to support her daughter Casey and grandson Michael. 

=== 

Honeybee Sensory Lesson 

In honor of Roseann McLaughlin and the collective consortium of educators she gathered, we share the first sensory-lesson book created by POP and reviewed by the GrowAbility collective as an adaptive activity guide book for special needs students.  Inspiration for the format first came from Linda Bucher of Overbrook School for the Blind, who supported the school’s Farm-to-Table program along with Roseann, teacher Lee Stough, Library Assistant/Farm-to-Table Job Coach Shannon Walsh, School Nutritionist Cathy Dorazio, and art teacher Susan DiFabio. 

Each page in this Honeybee Sensory Lesson Book (downloadable here) pairs information about the topic, life and role of honeybees in the larger ecosystem, with a sensory component that involves some mix of sight, smell, taste, movement, music / auditory input, solitary, and group work in recognition of the many ways students of all levels create pathways for learning, experience, and retention. 

Cover page for the 15-page book that can be adapted by teacher based on length of lesson and skill-level of students.

Each guidebook is adaptable — meaning teachers can choose which pages to present and props to use from the suggested accompanying prop-box based on the needs of their unique student group. We also include a rubric (downloadable here) that teachers can use as a guide for categorizing the book’s pages and for assessing students’ response to paged / themed activities. 

Students pretend to be drones with large-eyed sunglasses, fan the queen like a worker bee, and enact the process of pollination with hands-on tactile props.

Educators can consider a range of follow-up activities to complement the lesson book including art exercises making honeybees with tissue paper, as Lee Stough’s class had done (pictured here), visits with teaching demo beekeepers and hives (consult Philadelphia Beekeeper’s Guild for more info), planting pollinator gardens, making honey bee drinking dishes, etc. 

Teacher Lee Stough passes around a boar’s hair brush for students to feel the short bristly hairs of the honeybee that holds flowers’ pollen from one flower to the next.

This lesson was first offered to Lee Stough’s class, which includes a mix of student levels — from those with partial to fully obstructed sight, to those geared more toward sensory learning and to those able to perform at grade-level academically. The GrowAbility collective aims to pilot this lesson 10 times in the fall across various program sites including Elwyn, and Easter Seals Schools, Philadelphia Free Library branches, and with 4-H student groups and make edits to the curriculum with the larger collected findings.

As a follow-up to the lesson, Lee Stough’s class made flying honeybee decorations using tissue paper that the students ripped and glued in place.

Lee Stough’s Feedback on the Lesson: “The HoneyBee lesson was a big success with my students who have visual impairments and multiple disabilities.The adults also loved it and were as equally engaged as the students. The lesson allowed the students to learn about Honeybees through all their senses not just vision.  They were able to hear a swarm of bees through the classroom speakers, feel the hairs that are on the Honeybees by touching a Boars’ hair hairbrush, they were able to taste pollen grains, and smell the lemon scents bees give off to locate their hives. This lesson is in-depth and engaging.  Learners of all abilities will be engaged and want to participate.” 

If you’d like to pilot this lesson with your student group and loan the laminated book and accompanying prop box, feel free to reach out to Education Director Alyssa Schimmel, alyssa@phillyorchards.org 

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

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.