This past Saturday, the kids and I went olive picking at my kids’ school. Yep, you read that correctly. There is an olive orchard at their middle school. It has been there since the early 2000s when the school decided to enhance their outdoor learning area known as History Hill.
They decided to add an olive grove to provide a history lesson for students. In ancient Greece, olive oil was the basis for trade and used in religious ceremonies. Its value is comparative to modern day petroleum trade. What better way to liven up a boring History lecture than to have the student traipse out to History Hill and see the olive grove and harvest them for sale.
What started out as a 20-tree donation has grown to over 90 olive trees. And every fall, students, parents and teachers all help collect the purple, black and green olives.
On Saturday, I’d say there were over 130 students and parents on hand to help. Even though the forecast had threatened rain, it turned out to be a nice morning with some cloud cover keeping the Texas heat away in the morning.
This was the first year the kids and I went to olive pick even though it is Jase’s third year at the school. A majority of the students helping are in the Young Historian’s club, but they usually get help from other groups such as Student Council, PALS, and National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) as well as parents and other students including some who attended the school in the past and are now in high school.
Jase is in NJHS and could use the service hours, and Lexie’s social studies teacher promised extra credit so I got both kids up early (they grumbled about rising before 7:30 on the weekend). Of course once there and picking olives, they had a great time with their friends.
Once all the olives are picked, they are sold to an olive press in a neighboring town which sells the oil and gives a potion of the sales to the school. The money goes back into maintain the grove and provides funding for the school’s annual History Faire and Cultural Fest, which is meant to bring history to life for the students. It features hands-on activities as well as historical re-enactors, music, dancing, a medieval tournament and even military demonstrations – all on History Hill.
The school makes anywhere from $400 to $1200 each year depending on that year’s crop. Last year was a good year but this one was a little less productive due to a dry summer. But as the school will tell you, it isn’t about the money. The olive grove provides educational and social experiences that the students would not get by merely being in the classroom.