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Apple of Their Eyes

Elisabeth Amen Nursery School students help plant apple trees for Jamba Juice grant.

It was a drizzling Wednesday, as students Eric Christensen and Lewie Alfano, 20, and the preschool students from planted apple trees in the Murphy Apple Orchard behind the Wheaton President’s house.

The Elisabeth Amen Nursery School was selected as one of 20 award winners from a pool of more than 270 applicants for the 2010 Jamba Juice It’s All About the Fruit Award from the National Gardening Association and Jamba Juice. A grant of $500 has enabled the nursery school to purchase 14 new apple trees from Blueview Nurseries for the orchard, bringing their crop diversity to five apple tree types.

“The new trees will serve as a vital educational tool for our preschoolers,” said associate director of Wheaton College Molly Deschenes in a press release. “The planning for, planting and tending to fruit trees provides countless opportunities for hands-on fun as well as many teachable moments regarding nature, nutrition and environmental stewardship.”

The preschool students, whose ages range from 3 to 6, helped plant the trees by filling in the hole with dirt after the tree was put in the ground. Once the trees are about four years old, they will produce apples. Then students will harvest the fruit that fall.

“This important addition to our orchard will have a large-scale impact on the way we teach our pint-sized students crucial lessons that will be carried with them throughout their young lives,” Deschenes said.

The job as orchard caretaker is one that is passed down. Christensen, a sophomore at Wheaton, took over the job when the previous caretaker graduated two years ago.

“Back at home I worked in landscaping at a golf course. I wanted a job outside,” he said.

Christensen needed an assistant, so Alfano, his friend, started two weeks ago.

But 15 years from now when the students of Elisabeth Amen Nursery School are older and Wheaton students themselves, perhaps they will take the torch and become the next caretakers of the orchard. After all, now they have the experience.

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