WSU is helping the Wenatchee School District teach students a variety of interwoven disciplines in their own back yard — or orchard. A four-week apple curriculum, based on a national curriculum, incorporates physical science, social studies and even art and music.
It culminates in a two-day field experience, Awesome Apple Adventures, that brings nearly 700 second graders to the orchards of the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center.
Last month, 50 volunteers set up learning stations in the TFREC orchards, and for two days the students learned through hands-on experience about planting, grafting, pruning, irrigation, pests and pest control, picking, packing and marketing.They are instructed in apple art, learn to sing apple songs and even have a barn dance.
For WSU senior scientific assistant, entomology, Mike Doerr, who coordinates the TFREC’s participation, it’s a labor of love and an opportunity to spur an interest in science.
“I like to promote science to kids as a fun career choice,” says Doerr. “In my job I get to work with bugs, work in the orchard and work with the latest computer technology. As a scientist I get to do the stuff that kids love.
“I also believe that it’s important to remind the community of WSU’s presence here and show them what we do,” he adds. “A big focus of this event is on families, and we want to remind everyone how many families in this community are dependent on agriculture.”
The “Awesome Apple Adventure” is the most popular field experience in which the school district participates, says Karen Rutherford, science coordinator for the district.
“I still hear students talking about it from the first class that participated four years ago,” she says. “And it’s the most sought after field experience by parents that we do.”
That’s confirmed by the fact that about 150 parents attended this year’s event.
“WSU has been with us from the beginning,” Rutherford says. “Everyone has been wonderful, from the grad students to professors. The hours, time and love that Mike, (TFREC Director) Jay Brunner and the staff put in is wonderful,” she says. “It is a great example of what WSU does for our community.”