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 10 fruit trees, will be planted by students on Friday, May 11. Classes will spend time outside digging holes, planting trees, filling with compost and soil, and topping with a ring of mulch. While it ends with watering 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,” said Richard Hodges, ReTreeUS program manager, in a news release.

Students also learn how many different varieties of apples and other fruits there are outside their grocery stores, and the environmental impacts of food traveling a far distance to reach our plates, the release said. For many of them, this may be one of their first experiences planting a tree and growing their own food.

Students will gain firsthand 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,” Hodges said.

Through their participation, students working in the new orchard gain a deeper appreciation for the environment, according to the release. Signage presents an overview of the environmental, health and cultural importance of growing sustainable fruit trees and aids self-guided tours.

"We are excited to be the recipient of a ReTreeUS school orchard," said Darcy Johnston, Regional School Unit 3 agricultural project teacher. "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," she said.

Caring for the orchard will be incorporated into classroom curriculum. Additionally, each orchard has a designated orchard caretaker located at the school or partner organization who works with ReTreeUS staff to provide ongoing maintenance and learning opportunities, the news release said.

“Each orchard is a legacy in the school,” Hodges said. “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.”

About ReTreeUS

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