Falling for fall

Welcome, welcome, welcome, to a new year! Some of you are new, and some of you have returned, and we are so glad you are all here! Fall is such a magical time. The air is fresh, the foliage is ablaze with warm colors, and there is a sense of possibility surrounding us. To me, fall always feels like the beginning.

Orchard school has real panache when it comes to kicking off the school year and creating a welcoming atmosphere. There are the apple trees at the campus entrances, gracing us with bushels and bushels of perfect fruit. There are the get to know you, reconnecting events like the kinder family meet and greet day and of course the all-school ice cream social, marking the end of summer. But it doesn’t stop there!

On October 2nd (from 3pm-4pm) we have the Harvest Festival, and it’s as good if not better than it sounds! The kids harvest the food they lovingly cultivated the year before in the Orchard garden and spend the better part of two days in their classes preparing the feast. They use math to calculate measurements and language arts to read recipes and learn histories and traditions. After school on the appointed day, family and friends fill the field (their zero waste place servings brought from home along with picnic blankets) and are served by their student connection. The feast is shared and enjoyed with gratitude and excitement!

No fall is complete without a Halloween get down. Orchard does not disappoint: singing, dancing, a “haunted willows” walk, various skits and a finger food potluck (also zero waste), not to mention the teachers, parents and kids decked out in costume regalia. October 25th. Mark. Your. Calendar. Looking forward to seeing everyone at these wonderful events and just around campus!

Oh fall how I love thee. I also love vegan apple pie and in the spirit of Orchard’s theme this year of “Earth Day, Every Day, “ I thought what better time than to share the recipe. Maybe someone wants to make one for the Halloween potluck? No pressure. But I really want it. 

Vegan Apple Pie from Erin McKennas cookbook “Babycakes”

1 pound Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced into 1 inch cubes

1 pound pink Lady apples, peeled, cored, and diced into 1 inch cubes

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

In a medium bowl, toss together the apples, cinnamon, agave nectar, and lemon juice until the apples are completely coated. Spread the mixture over the prepared baking sheet. Bake the apples on the center rack for 35 minutes rotating the sheet 180° after 20 minutes. The apples will be soft. Let the apple stand for 30 minutes or until completely cooled.


3 cups flour, plus more for dusting

1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons coconut oil, plus more for brushing

1/2 cup 2 tablespoons agave nectar, plus more for brushing

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons cold water

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add 7 tablespoons oil and that agave nectar and vanilla to the dry ingredients and stir for 20 seconds, or until the dry and wet ingredients are completely combined. Slowly add the cold water to the mixture and continue mixing for an additional 20 seconds, or until a slightly moist dough is formed.

Spread a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and sprinkle it with flour. Dump the dough onto the plastic wrap and shape it into a 3 inch thick disc. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for 20 minutes before using.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly oil a 9-inch pie pan.

Cover your work surface with parchment paper and sprinkle it heavily with flour. Dredge the dough through the flour until it is completely covered. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to an even quarter inch thickness. Brush off the excess flour. Lift the crust and fit it into the prepared pie pan, allowing the excess dough to hang over the rim.

Fill the pie shell with the roasted apples and spread evenly. Fold the excess dough back over the apples, folding and pleating to create a rustic looking pie. Brush the dough lightly with the oil. Place the pie on the prepared baking sheet and bake on the bottom rack for 20 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and brush the crust with agave nectar. Return to the oven and bake for 11 minutes longer, until browned.

Let the pie stand for 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Store the pie, covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to three days.


Skills For A Lifetime


Skills For A Lifetime

As I experience my meteoric rise to fame in response to writing this parent blog, I wonder…what comes next? A movie deal? A coffee table book? What skills do I need to be successful in the next phase of my career? I have decided to ask some Orchard grads what core values and lessons they learned from their time as students here that benefited them in their next life phases. 

I spoke with one recent grad, Aya, as she finished her homework and started making dinner for her mom. She said she learned “how to be a kind person and to value friendships. And fractions.” Her mom, Orchard’s art teacher, Valerie, added,  “She’s got mad fraction skills.”

This next offering comes from Lindsey, an adult alumni who is now parent to two current Orchard students.

“I was at Orchard from kindergarten through 1/2 of third grade. I didn’t have the metacognitive skills at the time to really understand what I was learning that would serve me as an adult, and now as an adult my memories of Orchard are blurry. I remember [it] with fondness as a time of childhood innocence and adventure. When I left [for my new school], I was surprised I had to wear shoes, the playground had asphalt instead of dirt, and I couldn’t climb the trees.

Now as an adult, especially an adult who works in the [public] education system, I realize that from my time at Orchard I developed self awareness, an appreciation and love for nature, an excitement for learning, and deep long lasting friendships. I had a community...that no educational institution has since come close to matching.”

Finally, I caught up with Thies, a recent grad who was back at school waiting for his little sister who still attends Orchard. “I have good math skills because of Orchard and I can run fast and for a long time,” he said. Judging from his interactions with the adults and kids surrounding him on this day, Thies has a confidence that seems to be inherent in Orchard alumni.

 I wish I had gone to Orchard as a kid. The values and skills you learn here are holistic. They encompass the entire being, inside and out. I hope I can gather enough of these just by being around it all to help me with my next phases. EGOT* here I come!

*EGOT is an acronym for "Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony" in reference to persons who have won all four awards.





Since it’s the beginning of the holidays, it’s a great time to reflect. Gratitude is not only an idea; it’s an enriching practice that can be the light in a dim space. So I’ve asked our kids what they think about gratitude as it relates to life and Orchard School. Here’s what they said:

“Gratitude means feeling thankful and it doesn’t always have to be love, like I’m grateful that I didn’t fall out of that tree,” said Maxine, second grade.


"It means showing thanks. We have a Gratitude Bucket at school. It's not for compliments. Gratitude is really SHOWING thanks, not just saying it. Really making it count. Like, telling why, and making a person feel appreciated," said Nia, fifth grade. 

 “Unicycles!!! Climbing trees. Playing in the mud and not getting in trouble. And the other students,” said Tomas, sixth grade.

“Just to be here. It’s not like a normal school,” said Ryin, fifth grade.

”I love it here and the teachers are amazing,” said Ella, fifth grade.


“We get to run around barefoot and the teachers are really really nice. We have circus performances every year. And the friends here,” said Aubrie, sixth grade.

I’m seriously wowed and warmed by these. I’m grateful that these are the people that are inheriting our earth. And I’m thrilled that they are in a place that they love. Now go into this cold season with gratitude to light your way. 

If your gratitude flashlight needs some new batteries, I have happily shared some of mine in these photos. Some things that I am grateful for around our campus right now — frolicking, friendship, foliage, fun and fall.




Growing roots at Orchard

Welcome to the grand opening, first ever, ribbon cutting, inaugural parent observation corner. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m really excited though. I’m open to suggestions, themes, questions, comments, and I’ll work on accepting criticism. This is our family’s second year here at Orchard. Our child was lucky enough to begin his scholastic life in the kinder hut. The first time we visited the campus I felt a surge of hope. Our child who normally clung desperately to my body in any new situation, looked around, only one hand up my shirt, and began to take steps away from me. I could see excitement entering his tiny body through his feet as he crossed the bridge and saw the campus unfolding in front of us. Today he is so comfortable and confident I have to remind him to give ol’ mom a kiss goodbye before he runs off giddy to begin his day. 

Something that I have noticed time and time again from the kids at Orchard is the care that they take for one another. I’ve seen kids hug a classmate in moments of sadness. I’ve seen kids jump into action to get help for a friend with a scrape. I’ve watched as kids celebrate each other’s successes and triumphs. Gratitude is expressed between friends and it’s exhilarating as a parent and a person in this community to see the type of small humans they are becoming.