BATH — As Hannah Walker and Emeilia Marsh were planting their pear tree behind Bath Middle School last week, one of their concerns was what to name it.
The seventh-graders, excited to be out in the sun, were helping to plant a 42-tree orchard as part of the Apple Classroom for Outdoor Research and Education project, or CORE.
The initiative branches from Regional School Unit 1’s Leading Our Community in Agricultural Learning garden. LOCAL serves all the school district’s students at the corner of High and Lamont streets.
“Last year we serviced over 700 kids who visited the garden, and we taught them basic (organic) agricultural practices,” Laurie Burhoe, a master gardener who is co-director of the LOCAL garden, said at the Nov. 9 planting.
She is working with city arborist Tom Hoerth and a seventh-grade science and humanities team at the middle school to plant the orchard. That orchard will be used by the students throughout their middle school years as an outdoor laboratory and classroom, as they guide the project from planting to harvesting.
Once they leave the middle school, a new group of seventh-graders will become stewards of the orchard.
Knowing where your food comes from is one benefit to this expeditionary learning exercise, Hoerth said.
“And also understanding that you can grow it, doing things as a group and having it last a long period of time,” Burhoe said. “These kids are going to have to be patient. They’re not going to have fruit tomorrow. But they’re going to see that you put a tree in the ground, and it grows, and it goes somewhere. And they’re going to pass it on to other kids.”
She added that “they’re going to come here with their kids, pick an apple, and say ‘I planted this tree.'”
The 70 students will maintain every aspect of the orchard – which will grow apples, pears, plums and persimmons – throughout the seasons, and monitor quality of fruit, spring frosts and pest management, according to Burhoe.
They will also use a weather station built by a middle school technical education class. The project’s produce will go to school cafeterias and promote healthy food and sustainability.
“I’m excited to be out here because I like trees and fruit,” Marsh said. “So I’m glad we get to always be remembered as the seventh graders that started the apple orchard.”
When she and Walker were searching for a name, they decided the tree was a girl, “because all trees are girls,” Marsh said.
They ultimately settled on Piper. Piper the Pear Tree.
Hannah Walker, left, and Emeilia Marsh were among Bath Middle School seventh graders who planted a fruit orchard behind the school Nov. 9.
Brandon Shanklin, left, and Sebastian Hale Krull plant one of 42 trees that make up a new fruit orchard behind Bath Middle School.