School Wins Fruit Orchard Contest

 

Anthony Dorame Jr.

 

In modern society, the concept of sustainability and ideas about being “green” have become buzzwords used by people to suggest a “new” way of thinking about the ways we interact with the world around us. For Pueblo Indians, principles of sustainability have always informed the way in which we live our daily lives. Pueblo ways of understanding make it clear that we are only a small part of a complex system of relationships. The foundation for this understanding is sustainability on all levels.

This philosophy is being used at the Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS) to teach students important concepts about environmental and agricultural sustainability and Pueblo Indian core values. These values, combined with modern technological and scientific advances, give students a unique perspective as they prepare for their futures as leaders within their respective Pueblo communities.

Under the direction of instructors Mark Ericson, Tony Dorame (Tesuque Pueblo) and Matt Pecos (Cochiti Pueblo), students are given a rare opportunity for learning through the Community Based Education Program (CBE) at SFIS. Within this program students engage with local pueblos to assist tribal environmental and agriculture programs to complete sustainability projects. The CBE curriculum allows students to actively participate in projects that have been initiated by their respective pueblos. This allows for hands-on learning which models the way students are taught important lessons within their pueblos. Upon graduating, many CBE students return to their pueblos to work within the programs they assisted as students. This community-driven learning process allows students to explore unique ideas that will advance their pueblo communities.

The CBE Program is a prime example of how student learning can be enhanced when they are given the opportunity to conduct hands-on projects that are rooted in their core values. These types of experiences create opportunities that allow for meaningful learning to occur that requires students to integrate many different subject areas to make informed decisions for their communities.

 

SFIS Orchard Project

In the spring of 2011 SFIS entered into a national contest held by the Dreyer’s Fruit Bar Company’s Communities Take Root Program to win funding and technical support to plant a fruit orchard. Contestants were required to submit ideas on-line that showed how an orchard would be used to promote healthy eating and sustainability among students and the local community. The general public across the nation was then given the opportunity to vote for projects that accomplished those goals. Students, teachers, family members, staff, friends and entire pueblo communities voted to support the CBE program. Months after voting came the news that SFIS’s program had been selected as one of the winners.

On October 10, 2012, the school held an orchard planting event. Over 150 students, staff, parents and community members came out to help plant. Forty heirloom varieties of apple, plum, cherry and pear were obtained from master arborist Gordon Tooley of Tooley’s Trees in Truchas, NM. Tooley gave a presentation on orchard care and maintenance. Rico Montenegro of the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation gave an overview of the plan for the orchard and demonstrated the best technique for planting trees. The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation is an international organization dedicated to planting fruit trees and food plants in places that benefit communities throughout the world. Dreyer’s Fruit Bars, in partnership with the foundation, has facilitated the planting of 62 orchards across the US.

 

The CBE operates a state-of-the-art greenhouse equipped with solar panels and automatic watering system. The fruit tree orchard will be part of the SFIS’s community garden/greenhouse/outdoor classroom project, where students will learn about the importance of a balanced, locally sourced food system. The school’s agriscience program, greenhouse and developing farmers’ market have become increasingly important in establishing agriculture in the curriculum. The orchard will also provide fresh fruit for the Healthy Living Culinary Arts classes, which work with the school’s cafeteria food program, and allow students to learn methods of fruit preparation and preservation.

 

 

Anthony Dorame Jr. is the Agriscience instructor at Santa Fe Indian School and a councilman at Tesuque Pueblo. Email tdorame@sfis.k12.nm.us