Get a glimpse into the creation of the Oxbow Orchard with Wendy Mackenzie!
The Oxbow Orchard Project began small, but snowballed into a large community event with the addition of a grant. It all started when an idea was sparked by a conversation the Oxbow ECO club members had when they attended a conference at UVM. The purpose of this idea was simply to plant fruit trees in order to make Oxbow High School a more environmentally friendly place. The thinking then was that it would be great to incorporate the neighboring elementary schools. The students would be able to visit their future school and become more involved with their community while simultaneously helping the environment. As this plan took shape, the tenth grade at Oxbow was incorporated. They would be a large help in the planting as well as in getting the elementary school students familiarized with both the school and some of the faces that the elementary school students will see when they enter as seventh graders.
With the agreement of both the Bradford and Newbury Elementary Schools to participate, and with the plan falling into place, we moved on to the logistics of planting 36 trees and 79 raspberry and blueberry bushes were purchased. Through the connection of one of the teachers, some of the students and teachers of River Bend, the technical school attached to Oxbow, became involved. The agriculture class laid out all the trees and bushes in orderly rows and designed a watering system to use through the summer. The heavy machinery class moved the wood chips and fertilizer in places where the students would have easy access to them as they planted.
The day of the planting soon approached and as the elementary school students arrived, name tags were handed out, people were introduced, and instructions were given. There were groups of three tenth graders who were paired with a fifth grader from the Newbury Elementary School and a fifth grader from the Bradford Elementary School. Each group planted two trees and worked together to gather some of the materials that were needed, such as water, which they carried in buckets from the water pump. Students worked efficiently and quickly became acquainted with one another. After that, they went into the cafeteria for a snack, traipsing to the library when they finished. There, they decorated slices of tree branches with their name and a goal that they would like to complete before they graduate. When this was finished, the librarian had a scavenger hunt for each group to go on that went to various places around Oxbow and River Bend, taking each group in separate directions so that they would have to work within their teams to find their way around the school.
As the morning came to a close and the fifth graders headed back to their respective schools after three hours of hard but fun work, there was a sense of accomplishment among the participants. The trees had been planted, the students had become acquainted, and the younger students had become familiar with the school. In a few years, the trees will be producing fruit and the fifth graders can claim a connection to Oxbow. This connection will not only be with the older students but the trees will provide a connection as well, as they will be marked with the wood slices the students decorated. Everyone who participated that day helped with something that will permanently be on school grounds aiding the environment and creating a link with the place that they will reside for four years of their lives.