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.

POP 2018 Summer Newsletter

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2018 has been an exciting year so far for the Philadelphia Orchard Project and we thank each and every one of you for supporting us in our mission to create a more beautiful, bountiful Philadelphia.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR 2018 SPRING SEASON

-Planted our 1,239th fruit tree and supported our 61st community orchard site
-Involved over 700 volunteers and 1200 participants at orchard plantings, workshops, work days, harvests, school lessons, 1st annual Fig Fest and 10th annual East Park Strawberry Fest!
-Assisted with brand new orchard plantings at Cramp Elementary, Union Baptist Church, and Wyck Historic House
-Received new support from musician Paul Simon, Impact100, the Claneil Foundation, and more!

We hope you will take a few minutes to read below about some our POP events, past and future, as well as some of the interesting people and stories we’ve encountered along the way.  


Volunteer Work Days

 

 

POP is always in need of volunteers to help us with orchard maintenance throughout the season, workdays occur monthly so be sure to check our website for updates on events across the city.

Volunteer Groups

Getting your hands dirty in an orchard is always better with friends, if you or anyone you know is looking for the opportunity to help out as a group, reach out to: info@phillyorchards.org


2018 Updates

POP is Growing!

This year we are thrilled to introduce new staff members Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer and Orchard Assistant Alkebu-lan Marcus! This year’s POP team also includes Repair the World Fellow Megan Brookens and interns Alex Vogelsong, Cole Jadrosich, Greg Hample, and Abaigh Casey. We’d also like to express our thanks again to departing staff Robyn and Tanya.


Orchard Education

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 and reached 210 students.

Participating school orchard partners included William L. Sayre High School, William T. Tilden Middle School, Henry C. Lea Elementary School, Overbrook School for the Blind, Penn Alexander School, and John F. Hartranft School. Lesson topics included propagation, planting, and pruning; creating value-added products from the orchard; wild edible identification; and food preservation methods and traditions.

To read more about this year’s school orchard program, see our recent blog post update “Teaching Tomorrow’s Tenders


Orchard Plantings

POP’s core work of planting and supporting community orchards in the city continues to grow, and we are now working with 61 different orchard sites in neighborhoods across the city! 234 volunteers joined with us and our partners at 14 orchard planting events this spring.

Brand new orchards were planted with Cramp Elementary in North Philly, Union Baptist Church in South Philly, and Wyck Historic House in Northwest Philly. In all, 33 new fruit and nut trees, 92 berries and vines, and 526 perennial flowers and herbs were planted this season!

To learn more about all our orchard partners and view a map of POP sites, click here or visit phillyorchards.org/orchards.


POPHarvest Gleaning

      

June was joyful and filled with Juneberries, one of our favorite native fruits. With volunteers and orchard partners, we picked 120 lbs of juneberries at 10 harvest events across the city.

These incredible, abundantly available fruits were then featured by local businesses with a shared aim to increase awareness and utilize local fruit that would otherwise go to waste. We also harvested 50 lbs of fruit during Mulberry Madness and we are looking forward to Paw Paw Palooza 2018. Stay tuned for other gleaning events and a new workshop series highlighting lesser known fruits & herbs and led by community educators.

Join our POPHarvest listserv to get involved!


Resources

POP Blog
POP’s urban orchard blog continues to cover a variety of topics in ecological orchard care as well as highlighting our plants, programs, partners, and volunteers.

Some recent posts include:

Those Nutty Gardeners!: PA & NY Nut Growers Association

The Spotted Lanternfly: New Orchard Superpest?

Amaranth: Super Feed, Super Weed

Shrubs with Shrubs: Incorporating Underutilized Shrubs into Your Garden and Your Cocktails

New POP Pest & Disease Identification Guides!

Need help in identifying what specific pests and diseases are troubling your fruit trees?  POP has put together a series of photo guides for apples, cherries, peaches, plums, pears and Asian pears!  Download them for free from our website: https://www.phillyorchards.org/resources/pop_handouts/

Weed ID Guides

Our user-friendly guide was designed for orchard partners to identify over 40 of the most common weeds in Philadelphia. The guide also educates partners about positive and negative attributes of each weed, including life cycle, growth habit, edible and medicinal qualities, and ecological value. Based on these characteristics, the guide makes recommendations for which weeds to consider tolerating and which to consider removing.

Although intended for use by our partners, POP’s Weed Identification Guide has value for any home gardener! The price for mail delivery is $18 per guide and you can purchase them here via PayPal.

Please reach out to info@phillyorchards.org for bulk ordering options. We are happy to provide reduced pricing options for orders of 5 or more copies.


Keep POP Growing Strong

Your Amazon purchases can benefit POP at no cost to you!

You can direct Amazon to give a percentage of all purchases to POP.

Workplace Donations:

POP can now accept workplace donations via United Way (#53494), Earthshare, and Benevity: ask your employer about how to set up tax-exempt contributions and matching donations to support our work. We are also now able to accept stock transfers, so you can divest, and then invest in planting the future with POP!

Individual Donations:

The Philadelphia Orchard Project is deeply grateful to each and every one of our generous donors and the support of our community. To make a donation simply click below and fill out the online form.

Donate 

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Chris

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POP could not continue to plant and maintain orchards throughout the city without the help of our dedicated volunteers. We asked Chris Poehlmann, who recently participated in our new orchard planting day at Penn Alexander School, to share his volunteer experience with us. Read on to learn about how his unique skillset came in handy at the work day he attended.

Volunteers preparing the soil for orchard planting at Penn Alexander School in West Philly.
Volunteers preparing the soil for orchard planting at Penn Alexander School in West Philly.

Did you have any experience with gardening/tree planting prior to this work day? If so, can you tell us about it? 

I love having a garden and built a raised bed three tier garden off the back of our deck. I raise mainly tomatoes and herbs that I start from seed every year.  My approach is one of benign neglect, minimal weeding and random watering but good soil and compost gives me great results. I’ve planted plenty of trees over the years, my wife Kate does the landscape planning and I dig the holes.

What is your favorite fruit tree or fruit, and why?

I love the fact that we can grow figs here in Philly.  

Do you have any fruit trees at home? If so, which ones?

Only if you consider 6′ tall tomato plants to be trees.

What was your favorite part of the planting day you attended? Did you learn anything at this work day?

Working on the 3 benches with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop was especially gratifying. (Girl Scout Troop 9412 made three benches for PAS’s outdoor classroom). As a full time designer and builder of things, I do not often get the chance to teach or mentor. My kids have been exposed to design from the start, but it’s super cool to show others the process.  We started out with a brainstorming session, distilled the ideas down to something practical and cost effective while still being good looking. Then we spent a day in my studio learning about shop work and safety.  The 5 girls did all the work and created 3 benches that will be used and appreciated by countless others — hands on learning that then has a legacy.

Volunteer lead girl scouts in creating benches for the new orchard and outdoor classroom at Penn Alexander Elementary.
Volunteer Chris Poehlmann lead girl scouts in creating benches for the new orchard and outdoor classroom at Penn Alexander School.

Volunteers like Chris are a crucial component to the work POP does. If you are interested in attending a planting day, please visit our events page to sign up for an upcoming volunteer opportunity, where you can learn about planting, help your community, and connect with your neighbors!

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.