The American Chestnut Foundation and Owen Middle School Join Forces forEducation and Conservation
Asheville, NC – The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) recently partnered with Charles D. Owen Middle School in Swannanoa as part of the school’s Natural Impact Initiative, the goal of which is to connect students to their natural Appalachian heritage through outdoor ecological sites designed for exploratory learning. Its main focus is to boost STEM readiness and increase proficiency in the core curriculum. This unique collaboration promises long-term opportunities for education, restoration and conservation within both organizations.
Students and teachers worked with TACF scientists and volunteers on April 16 to begin installation of a germplasm conservation orchard located behind the school. Germplasm is hereditary material, like genes. The ultimate goal of a germaplsm conservation orchard is to preserve native germplasm, and in this case, native germplasm of the American
chestnut tree. The first phase of the project included planting 10 trees: 3 wild American seedlings transplanted from surrounding mountains in the area; 2 F1 hybrids which are 50% American chestnut and 50% Chinese chestnut; 3 Castanea henryi or Chinese chinquapins; and 2 Chinese chestnuts which will be used to provide control stock
(primarily to make F1 controls). The trees are very important to the Foundation’s breeding program and will eventually be incorporated into the breeding process. TACF Regional Science Coordinator Tom Saielli worked with School Counselor Carl Firley and Seventh Grade Science Teacher Brittany Krasutsky to implement this hands-
on learning experience. Krasutsky also serves as Chair of the Natural Impact Initiative.