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Orchard teaches Pittsburg students basics of growing sustainable food


By Trine Gallegos

Willow Cove Elementary students really dig their school -- figuratively and literally.

The Pittsburg group recently moved outside the class and into the fresh air to plant a fruit tree orchard.The nonprofit Common Vision and Pittsburg Unified's nutrition services department are turning an empty area into a grove of trees.According a district news release, in addition to digging in the dirt, "students will learn about fruit trees, how to care for them and the benefits of growing fresh foods." Spearheaded by teacher Paul Schnurr, the recent outdoor project included hands-on planting experience, orchard-inspired sign making, composting and "learning gritty details about growing trees under proper conditions."Principal Catherine Borquez said, "We are ... excited to partner with Common Vision in creating the opportunity for growth for our students and garden."In 2014, the school earned recognition from the White House for its school garden.This program is in keeping with PUSD's focus on "student wellness." The news release noted that "Students (who) partner in growing their fruits and vegetables are much more apt to actually eat them," said Matt Belasco, director of child nutrition services.MORE PUSD GOOD NEWS: The Pittsburg school district is being recognized by the California Department of Education for its efforts in energy conservation, sustainability and programs to help the community and students.

According to the Green Ribbon Schools Award Program, the gold status achievement is based on PUSD's "ability to provide effective environmental education, which teaches many disciplines, and is especially good at effectively incorporating STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways."

The award also recognized the district's efforts to reduce environmental impact and cost.

Based on certification requirements, PUSD scored 79 percent for the gold level award, which was presented by Tom Torlakson, state Superintendent of Public Instruction.

A news release stated the district "made significant strides in ... sustainability and environmental conservation," including installation of solar arrays at all of its schools and implementation of an "aggressive recycling program."

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© 2003-2020 Common Vision