Soil Nutrient Experts and Skilled Worm-Finders: Orchard Explorers Learn All About Soil

If you’ve been following the ways we’ve been growing here at Weaver’s Orchard, then I’m sure you have been perched on the edge of your seat in anticipation for an Orchard Explorers update.

Why We Think This Program Is Important

Last week I had the privilege of formally introducing the new program on our blog. Just in case you didn’t read it for yourself, or you couldn’t manage to find your own Explorer to come along with you to experience it firsthand, I’ll give you a quick rundown of what the program desires to do.

To put it simply, the people who call the orchard home are committed to inviting people to share the connection between farming and food. The Orchard Explorers program provides exciting, hands on, educational experiences on topics ranging from soil composition and composting to irrigation and harvesting each Tuesday for Explorers ages 7-11 alongside a parent or guardian (it’s fine for one chaperone to keep an eye on a few kids).

These classes will run each Tuesday throughout the summer (We will not be meeting July 4th.)

We consider it a great privilege to share the orchard with our local community through these classes. Karalee and I, the class co-leaders, are excited to experience the orchard alongside Explorers. But even more than that, we get to establish a foundation for the next generation of consumers who are empowered and informed about where their food comes from and how to source it for themselves.

“So What Will You Do During Orchard Explorers?”

Enough with the high-level philosophy behind the program! The time has come when we can finally satisfy your curiosity and answer the most common question buzzing around the orchard these days, “So what will you do during Orchard Explorers?”

While preparing for Week One’s content which focused on Soil and Composting, I couldn’t help but hear musical entertainment legend Julie Andrews in her role as Maria Von Trapp, “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.” Now, this melody was not swirling around in my head merely because I was preparing for our maiden voyage into the world of Agri-tainment/Edu-tainment Weaver’s Orchard style, but because as the Orchard Explorers learned today, pretty much everything we do at the orchard revolves around the health, management, and stewardship of our soil.

After a few icebreaker activities and a reading of the book Dirt Boy by author Erik Jon Slangerup by co-leader Jon Vanwyngarden, I started our expedition into just how important soil is to everything from planting and growing to harvesting at Weaver’s. Through a few hands-on demonstrations and experiments, young explorers and their guardians became soil content experts.

We discovered together that soil is a mixture of four main ingredients: weathered rock, organic matter, air and water. The weathered rock can be in the form of sand, silt, clay, pebbles or larger rocks. Organic matter can be anything from old leaves, dead animals and plants, to worms and other microorganisms.

Explorer JD Guiseppe of Morgantown, PA proved his extensive knowledge of the importance of nutrients in the soil and even pointed out which sample the thought “looked just right” for plants to grow in.

Explorers also learned a special secret that not many people know about the soil here at Weaver’s Orchard. Our unique soil is what is known as “Joanna Series,” named after the Joanna Furnace just a few miles down PA Route 10. Only approximately 10,000 acres of Maryland and Pennsylvania soil have this unique classification, characterized by its excellent ability to drain and its elements of Triassic red sandstone and quartz pebbles.

After a little background knowledge, it was time to go on a scavenger hunt. I was personally very excited for this activity because not only were Explorers going to get a little behind-the-scenes tour of the orchard, but each location on our Scavenger Hunt highlighted different soil compositions found on the orchard grounds.

Oh, and how could I forget! The Explorers got to use super cool shovels to dig!!!

This week we had five boys, and they lit up when they found out that they were going to not only go on a hike, but also dig up samples to use later, again with those super cool shovels. Explorer Jackson Wise of Temple, PA was an expert worm finder, somehow finding them at nearly every location along the way.

Eventually the scavenger hunt took us up to the strawberry fields, where each Explorer got to pick their own quart of strawberries after learning the ins-and-outs of strawberry production. Refreshed by the juicy strawberries and a break at the water jug, we set out to our final trek back to the meeting location.

Here we tried our hand at a craft: painting with dirt! The boys were given wooden mallets and some paper folders for all of those soil samples we had taken throughout the orchard. They then mixed these with glue. Now, the colors were the shades and hues you’d think, browns, rust red and black, but Explorer Clayton Wise had the brilliant idea of getting some food coloring and before we knew it Pablo Picasso would have even been impressed!

Looking back, with day one on the books, I can say that I’m most excited for the opportunity this program provides young kids and their parents/guardians to get outside and experience something new together.

The orchard means so much to me and I feel honored to lead families on these expeditions throughout the summer, see them make memories together and learn about this place I hold so close to my heart. Sure the snacks are great, and the kids make you laugh pretty hard. But at the end of the day hearing our five explorers ask their moms if we can come back again was pretty fantastic.

Please feel free to join us or contact us with any questions at office@weaversorchard.com or 610-856-7300!

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