Tree Campus K–12
Case Study: Freeport High School
School ProfileType of School: Public high school serving 1,200 students in grades 9 through 12.
Location: Freeport, IL
Champion: Brittani DeVries, Agriculture Teacher
In an urban setting, many students who work in Freeport High School’s garden and orchard gain exposure to the concepts of land stewardship and agriculture for the first time. Tree Campus K–12 became a rallying point for the students who use these orchard trees as a learning tool.
Following is a breakdown of how the school approached each of the four program goals.
Goal: Tree Campus Team
Freeport High School’s existing urban garden team doubled as the Tree Campus K–12 team. This group consists of students who work in the school’s urban garden, including the fruit trees growing in the orchard. Meetings often include an educator from the local community college agriculture department, which creates an important connection between the students and the community.
Goal: Education Plan
Students in DeVries’ Plant Science class covered an extensive unit on orchard trees, including learning on different varieties, how to plant them, and how to prune, spray, and harvest them. After covering additional lessons on general tree care and how trees produce food for themselves through photosynthesis, students each picked their own tree and created a presentation for the class. How did DeVries gain inspiration to guide this curriculum? “We utilized resources from Illinois Ag in the Classroom and resources on our local Soil and Water Conservation District website,” she said.
Goal: Hands-On Experience
Freeport High School’s urban garden and orchard creates the perfect opportunity for hands-on experiences with trees. Throughout the school year, 10–20 students work in the garden up to five times per week. The food produced by the trees and crops is sold in the community to individuals and restaurants and donated to food pantries, giving Freeport’s largely urban student population a deep understanding of the importance of trees not just in communities, but in agriculture. In the future, Plant Science students have a plan to plant dwarf fruit-bearing trees that younger students in the district can visit on field trips and are applying for a grant from a local organization to make it happen.
Goal: Arbor Day Observance
Students cover the history of Arbor Day in class and use the holiday as an opportunity to reflect on their learning about tree care and harvesting. Arbor Day at Freeport High School also includes a planting party in which students put their knowledge to work selecting planting sites and digging up soil to prepare for new trees in the orchard.
We are an urban school, but we are surrounded by agriculture. Sometimes it's easy to forget how much we rely on farmers and good stewards of our land to make sure our environment is cared for in the best way possible for the next generations. Students at Freeport High School have helped to create plans that revolve around the goals of Tree Campus K–12, and it's because they understand caring for trees and planting a tree can better our environment; it is up to each of us to be the best stewards of the land that we can and to leave it better than when we came.”Brittani DeVries, Agriculture Teacher