Evergreen 6 Academy gets a little greener

by Paul Wellersdick

Beating drums and planting trees were part of the Evergreen Sixth Grade Academy school curriculum Monday afternoon as squad of modern-day Johnny Appleseeds taught about sustainability.

By traveling in a caravan of vegetable oil-powered vehicles, cooking their food in solar ovens and planting thousands of trees, the 25 volunteers of Common Vision taught students about sustainability. The group's sixth-annual tour performed puppet shows, drum circles and planted trees at its Paradise stop, Common Vision Education Director Michael Flynn said.

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Lessons now will bear fruit in future

by Debbie Arrington

This rap came with shovels:

Plant the trees, reap the fruit. You're the future. You're the youth.

Rolling around the state in mural-coated buses powered by recycled vegetable oil, the Fruit Tree Tour hit Sacramento this week, using music, art and sweat to teach kids about ecology.

Digging along to a hip-hop beat, hundreds of local students got a firsthand lesson in sustainability. Years from now, this short course will produce food for families as well as a memorable lesson in connectivity.

We all need food; the Earth's got plenty. Look around, look around.

Dressed in colorful and imaginative costumes, the tour's 25 volunteers led students at Aero Haven School in North Highlands in song and dance Wednesday before planting dozens of fruit trees on campus. Their musical message proved catchy:

Working together, we make the future better. Working together, we make the future better.

On Tuesday, about 150 students from Cordova and Grant high schools and Mitchell Middle School pitched in to plant more than 30 fruit trees at Soil Born Farm's River Ranch in Rancho Cordova as the tour's drummers beat out an infectious rhythm for the workers.

"We're creating a food forest," explained Sara Smith-Rubio of Soil Born. "This is an educational experience that will be harvested for years."

The Sacramento Tree Foundation donated these local fruit trees, an assortment of citrus, plums, pears, peaches, apples, cherries and other favorites. In about three years, these same students may help harvest this fruit.

Creating such connections has been an integral part of this traveling road show, started six years ago by the nonprofit group Common Vision.

From February to April this year, the tour will perform before an estimated 15,000 students while planting about 1,000 trees from San Diego to Sacramento.

Since its start, the Fruit Tree Tour has planted about 3,600 trees statewide, said Michael Flynn, who has been part of the all- volunteer staff since its inception.

"Part of our program is to provide fresh fruit throughout the school year," Flynn explained. "Persimmons and figs will be harvested in the fall, followed by apples and pears. In the winter, there are oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons and kumquats. In the late spring, there will be cherries, early peaches and nectarines and loquats."

But this tour is about more than providing alternative school snacks.

"Through planting fruit trees, we're teaching kids about the Earth and their relationship to it," Flynn said. "By integrating arts – theater, eco-hip-hop, drumming – into environmental action, students get excited.

"Trees make them think about the future," he added. "The reward isn't immediate. They'll help take care of these trees they've planted. Over the years, they'll learn more as the trees grow and bear fruit. They'll see how working together, their actions make a difference. The impact on students is really profound."

Getting kids into gardening and providing locally grown food for families who might not otherwise have fresh produce are two trends catching on all over the nation.

From the White House to the state house, novice gardeners are digging in.

Examples of such agri- activism are sprouting coast to coast. With a bevy of students, first lady Michelle Obama started a vegetable garden on the White House's South Lawn. California first lady Maria Shriver plans to do the same in Sacramento with a Capitol-area vegetable garden to help teach students about food.

The Fruit Tree Tour is part of this growing trend.

"For many of these kids, this is a first-time experience," said Guy Galante, educational director for Soil Born.

About 60 students from Mitchell Middle School walked 2.7 miles from their classroom to be part of the event.

Teachers Natalie Marhauer and Ellen Burton watched their students make some initial stabs at the soil.

"The walk over was an experience, too," Marhauer said. "We don't get that many field trip opportunities, but this was close. Some kids that might not succeed in the classroom do really well here, outdoors, doing something different."

Added Burton, after watching the performers twirl around a 20-foot dancing redwood tree, "Some of them were a little dumbstruck by the music and all this. I feel like I'm at a Grateful Dead show."

Besides planting for the future, students painted 6-foot-high murals of their visions of tomorrow, including fantasy trees bearing the fruit of wisdom.

"By the time these students are in high school, they'll be able to come back here, see how much these fruit trees have grown," Marhauer said, "and appreciate what they've accomplished."

That's a great lesson at any age.

Trees and Eco-Knowledge Take Root at Anneliese

The Common Vision Fruit Tree Tour recently made a stop at Anneliese School, transforming their schoolyard into a living classroom. The students were treated to a demonstration play, hands-on planting experience, and a participatory music activity before working in art groups to document some of their insights.

The goal of Common Vision is to engage students in dialogues about health, nutrient cycles, global climate change, tree biology, the importance of fresh food and becoming an agent of positive change.

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Food for blogs an students

by Joan Obra

Of course, there is life beyond the virtual world. Take an event such as Common Vision's visit to Fresno this week.

This environmentally minded nonprofit has embarked on its sixth annual Emmy Award-winning "Fruit Tree Tour" throughout California. Picture 25 idealistic volunteers traveling on brightly painted, vegetable-oil-powered buses. They stop in cities to plant fruit trees, play some instruments, and encourage everyone they meet to take care of the environment in their own communities.

"There's more to the environment than rain forests and polar bears," says Michael Flynn, Common Vision's director of education and program development.

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Fruit Tree Tour plants Inland Empire

by Gina Diamante

This year during a planting and performance in Southern California’s Inland Empire, Fruit Tree Tour was visited by our new friends at KVCR, the area’s National Public Radio affiliate. Give a listen to this great report that makes you feel like right you’re right here with us.

Fruit tree planters roll into OC — in veggie-powered buses

by Pat Brennan

Here’s something you don’t see every day: a caravan of vegetable-oil buses, chugging into the school parking lot and filled with volunteers carrying life-sized puppets, shovels and a variety of fruit trees for planting right there in the school yard.

The 2009 Fruit Tree Tour is on the road again, bringing its message about the perils of climate change to school children around the state. It’s the sixth year of the tour, with two stops this week in Orange County.

“We’ve got the whole storyline explaining global warming,” said Michael Flynn, an organizer with the Bay Area group. “It’s a really fun way of getting kids engaged in their own communities. That’s the vision.”

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Group brings environmental message to students in Nuevo

by Erica Shen

Students at Nuview Elementary School in Nuevo learned how to take care of the planet from a time-traveling scientist and some life-size puppets Thursday.

The comedic characters were part of the Fruit Tree Tour, a group that travels across California to plant orchards at schools and teach children about the environment.

The group's visit began with an assembly packed with songs and skits about climate change and fossil fuels. Fifth-graders then rotated through drumming, creativity and tree-planting workshops. Students and volunteers planted 24 trees in the school's playground.

"It was a lot of fun," said Lesli Reynaga, 11. "I learned about giving life to trees."

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Raw Inspirations Radio talks with Megan and Doug

In this episode, we'll get the Fruit Tree Tour update from Megan Watson and Doug Fuller of Common Vision. Common Vision: Founded in 1999, Common Vision is a solution-focused nonprofit organization, a project of International Humanities Center. Common Vision’s mission is to cultivate ecological awareness and respect for the Earth while generating social and environmental changes towards sustainable lifestyles. We integrate concepts of ecology with the traditions, music, and art of cultures that live or have lived in harmony with the Earth.

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