Greetings from Park Place; Deni here – reporting on an incredible month of activity.  Not sure which to share first, so I’ll start with the Edible Park.

On October 1, students from High Point Elementary School joined us at Sugar Hollow Park to plant the First Edible Park in Southwest VA. Thanks to the support of HEAL Appalachia and the Department of Forestry, Park Place was able to invite 101 – 5th graders to join us in planting 14 native edible species of trees and shrubs.  We worked in two teams of 50; while some kids hiked the surrounding nature trail and took part in tasting pawpaws, pears and jujube fruits, others planted.  They later swapped roles.

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Students dug holes for each of the plants; no easy feat as it hadn’t rained in two weeks.  Students were more than happy to use a pick ax to soften the soil “Just like Mine Craft” was the line of the day.  Helping kids slow down was the challenge.  Young boys were more than eager to haul the pick ax over a shoulder to swing – more than once did I have to stop them to ask “have you looked behind you to see if anyone is behind you?” Most often they had not, but they learned quickly as did their team mates – eagerly awaiting a turn with the pick.

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Holes were dug and measured to the correct size; “double the size of the container the trees are currently in” was the simple rule.  Length x width x height of holes was the math challenge they faced. “This is perfect review for them!  It brings all the math they’re learning in school to life” said their math teacher, who was thrilled at all the cooperative activity.

Once holes were measured to size teams of kids hauled buckets of water to each of their holes.  It was fun watching them splash and laugh, the day was hot and getting to be around the water was a cool treat.

Trees came out of their pots and into the ground.  Soil went back into the hole and cardboard was used to mulch and cover grasses around the new tree site.  Wood mulch was waiting in a truck nearby and teams of students filled cart after cart full of mulch to dump around the trees.

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Kids also helped pound in t-posts that would support fencing to reduce damage from deer browse and enthusiastic mowing crews.

All in all students planted 2 black raspberries, 5 blueberries, 2 pawpaws, 2 service berries, 1 pear, 1 cherry and 1 plum.

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Students will return in March to check on their plants and add more mulch to each tree.  They’ll take part in more taste tests of fresh fruits and take another hike around the park to highlight good fitness practices.  Each student will receive a service berry bush to take home to plant and if they don’t have a place to plant them at school ASD will provide places for them to plant along the new  Trail that opened October 17.

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