An important skill that is taught at Abington Friends School (AFS) as part of an extensive Quaker education, is love and respect for the earth and its inhabitants. The students are taught to be stewards of the environment and to learn and be advocates for social responsibility.
During the 2020-2021 year, the school’s Center for Experiential Learning expanded upon this goal with a record number of students joining its new FarmEx cohort program.
FarmEx students have worked with Nick Lodise of Bee Happy Honey & Hives all year to create an apiary on the 50-acre AFS campus. There are currently nine active beehives where the students actively work to care for and maintain the hives and observe the bees..
Senior Kathy Liang has collaborated with the Lower School at AFS on the creation of a pollinator garden that will serve as a habitat for butterflies and other pollinators, while directly connecting with the school’s science curriculum.
Kathy, who is involved with the Upper School Environmental Action and Justice Club and FarmEx cohort, made this her Senior Capstone project.
Kathy says that AFS was so incredibly supportive of her ideas, from finding land in front of the Lower School to place the garden, to inspiring the lower school students and getting them excited to plant and to understand how the garden helps the earth.
Kathy says that AFS helps students learn how to put their ideas into practice. “We are [taking] real action on our ideas. I have the opportunity to shape my own education at AFS,” she says. “We are always learning.”
Another initiative that Kathy and her fellow students in the Upper School Environmental Action and Justice Club are working on is helping the school recycle more often, and correctly. “Different communities and towns, like Jenkintown, have different rules for recycling.
AFS is also a founding school member of SEASN, Student Environmental and Sustainability Network, which was just created in recent months in conjunction with the Friends Council on Education.
Another way AFS students practice stewardship of the earth is through their AFS Arbor Day program, where students from the Upper School join together with younger Lower School students and plant trees. “Younger students look up to the older students,” Kathy notes.
AFS is also one of nine schools that the Arbor Day Foundation recently recognized as a founding campus in the Tree Campus K-12 program. It is a special designation for the schools that piloted the program.
The school brings the natural world into the classroom through AFS Outside programming, environmental science classes in both middle and upper schools.
The school also has the first accredited secondary school arboretum.
The most important aspect of helping the earth is leaving it for more classes of students to enjoy and work on projects that current students are creating. “We are leaving these garden and trees and programs behind for the next classes to learn and work on,” Kathy explains.
As she heads to college at Berkeley to study society and the environment next year, Kathy will be bringing her love of the earth with her and plans to put her words into action, just like so many of her classmates and AFS graduates.