Outdoor Classroom Transforms With Food Forest

Volunteers help plant trees for a Food Forest. (Photo by Alyssa Riccardi)

  HOWELL – A local middle school will now flourish with fresh fruits as their outdoor classroom expands with a “Food Forest.”

  Howell Middle School South, in collaboration with the Howell Green Team/Shade Tree Commission began the planting of their Food Forest. About 30 trees were planted next to the school’s greenhouse, where students often take their learning outside. The trees, along with 800 oak tree saplings for students to take home, were donated by FirstEnergy as a part of the company’s initiative.

  Howell Middle School South Science Teacher Josh Langenberger explained how the project is not only about promoting sustainability, but building global stewards.

  “We have about 800 kids, if we can get 10 or 15 of them to go home and plant a tree, or start a garden…Planting a seed is really about the children, it’s giving them the opportunity,” Langenberger said. “I’m excited for them to see these trees bloom. I’m excited for them to see apples right here at their school.”

Photo by Alyssa Riccardi

  Along with apples, the donated fruit trees include peach, pear, plum and nectarine. Langenberger said some trees will grow fruit as soon as the end of this year. Students will be able to harvest the fruit, as well as the school’s garden that holds different vegetables that is maintained by the Howell Middle School South Environmental Club.

  Additionally, the fruits and vegetables collected in the garden are donated to local food pantries.

  “It’s really a cooperation between the township, the environmental commission, and the schools. It’s all about building this partnership so that we’re all working together,” Langenberger said. “What if we had a fruit forest at every school in Howell Township? Imagine the harvest we’d have, and it’s all donated to the food pantry in town.”

  “Ideally in 10 years, our food pantries our stocked, not with canned foods but fresh. It’s all about taking care of our community. My goal is really to create a model here. We’re really hoping that once the students see and become more involved, they feel more a part of the community,” he added.

Photo by Alyssa Riccardi

  “We’re excited to be able to work with the Howell Schools and provide these fruit trees, to be able to be a part of the community garden they have going here, and to be able to give the students trees to plant at their home. Environmental stewardship is a core value of ours. This effort here in Howell is part of a larger effort we’re going to plant and give away over 3,000 trees across the state this year. We’re proud to be a part of the effort to take care of our environment,” Chris Hoening of FirstEnergy said.