Tom Hoerth helps and educates a group of middle schoolers while they plant their tree.by Chris Chase
Coastal Journal staff
BATH — A cadre of 7th graders at the Bath Middle School have planted some roots that will last much longer than their academic careers.
Those quite literal roots involve the 42 fruit trees planted behind the school by Bath Middle School’s Black House 7th graders, in a project led by RSU1’s Leading our Community in Agricultural Learning (LOCAL) garden.
The project, which had the 7th graders digging holes and planting the trees, is aimed at both teaching the students and providing a local food source the area can utilize.
“They’re providing food for their own cafeteria,” said Laurie Barhoe, a master gardener and co-director of LOCAL.
Barhoe was one of the initial backers of the project, and started the ball rolling when she approached Tom Hoerth, the City of Bath’s town arborist.
According to Barhoe, the project will tie into a number of different local services and will also be a great resource for teaching the students about both biology and agriculture and sustainability. In addition, the fruit the trees bear will be utilized by the local culinary arts program at the Bath Regional Career and Technical Center.
“It ties into a lot of issues that are prominent these days,” said Barhoe. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
The trees themselves will be cared for primarily by the 7th graders on up until they leave the middle school. The responsibility will be passed on from one group to the next into the distant future.
“You are going to be the stewards of this land,” said Barhoe as the 7th graders sat in a group before planting.
Not all of the work can be done by the students, however. The trees will still need to have certain pesticides applied to them in order to thrive, and the only person in the community with the licenses for their use is Hoerth.
“There is some spraying that has to occur,” said Hoerth. “I plan on using organic pesticides.”
A former teacher himself, Hoerth said he felt an orchard for educational purposes would benefit the whole community.
“Laurie said to me, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to have an orchard at one of the schools,’ and this space just worked,” said Hoerth.
The trees themselves were provided through grants and the direct donation of several trees by local businesses. Even though they’re hardy, they will still need a lot of care to ensure their success.
“We expect to lose a few trees, because you always do,” said Barhoe.
Although not all of the trees will survive, the officials in charge of the project feel that it will stand the test of time and be a source of knowledge for students for decades.
The teachers for Black House will be using the trees in multiple units across multiple disciplines. Jason Meserve, the science teacher for Black House, plans on tying the orchard into several units throughout the year.
“It’s a chance for our kids to be outside, and a chance for them to benefit our community,” said Meserve.
The planting itself, according to Meserve, was probably the most difficult part, where he needed to ensure everything went well.
“It’s organizing chaos,” said Meserve with a laugh as students continued to divide his attention.
According to Meserve, the curriculum using the trees will involve both the science and humanities studies at the school. The science aspect will focus on the biology of the trees, while the humanities will tie it into sustainability and how communities support themselves.
The rare sunny day in November closed with all of the teacher’s planting goals met, and the trees secure in their new locations.
“We’re hoping to see this tying into teaching and leading the community,” said Barhoe as she looked out over the progress, “and I love to see their enthusiasm.”