MONROE, Maine — Monroe Elementary School has been selected as the recipient of a new school orchard by ReTreeUS, a Maine educational nonprofit program. The orchard, made up of ten fruit trees, will be planted by students on Friday, May 11, 2018. Classrooms will spend time outside digging holes, planting trees, filling with compost and soil, and topping with a ring of mulch. While it ends with a water for each tree and the installation of signage to educate visitors on the new space, students from each assisting class will first receive a lesson on their role in the orchard.
“We believe that by engaging students in the process of growing their own food and caring for trees, we can create lasting change,” says Richard Hodges, ReTreeUS Program Manager. Students also learn how many different varieties of apples and other fruits there are outside of their grocery stores, and the environmental impacts of food traveling a far distance to reach our plates. For many of them, this may be one of their first experiences planting a tree and growing their own food.
Students will gain first-hand experience in making a positive contribution to the environment. “When we plant orchards across the state, they are not only educating the community, but also absorbing pollutants and excess carbon from the atmosphere and bringing nutrients into the soil,” says Hodges. Students working in the new orchard gain a deeper appreciation for the environment by participating hands-on. The orchard is made complete with educational signage overviewing the environmental, health and cultural importance of growing sustainable fruit trees and to make the space accessible for self-guided tours.
“We are excited to be the recipient of a ReTreeUS school orchard! We’re working to expand our school garden program while supporting student mastery of academic targets. This orchard will provide ongoing, hands-on learning experiences to support us with these goals,” states Darcy Johnston, RSU 3’s Elementary Teacher of Agricultural Projects. This spring’s planting at Monroe Elementary School will be complete with a new orchard for the whole school to enjoy and incorporate into classroom curriculum. Additionally, each orchard has a designated Orchard Caretaker (O.C.) located at the school or partner organization that works with ReTreeUS staff to provide ongoing maintenance and learning opportunities. “Each orchard is a legacy in the school,” Hodges says. “Fruit trees take awhile to come into production, but students watch the trees grow over time and know that they will be giving back to future generations.”
ReTreeUS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit program under United Charitable. Its mission is to promote an environmentally sustainable, socially just food system through education, practical resources, and mentorship. ReTreeUS plants orchards in schools and provides educational programs that empower people to be healthy environmental stewards. Since breaking ground in 2012, ReTreeUS has planted 21 educational orchards across Maine with nine additional plantings scheduled for Spring 2018. To learn more, visit www.retreeus.org
–Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
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