Meet the tree that's wowing folks all over the country with its unusual bounty of fruit.

Sam Van Aken is the creator of the Tree of 40 Fruit, a single tree that grows 40 different types of fruit.

Van Aken is an artist and professor at Syracuse University, and his latest project just might be his most delicious yet.

Van Aken's Tree of 40 Fruit grow a wide variety of stone fruits (i.e., fruits with large pits in the center), including cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and even almonds.



This is an artist's rendering of the full-grown tree. Each one takes over a decade to mature. Photo by Sam Van Aken, courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Art.

It's all possible through an intricate process called "chip grafting."

Van Aken takes a sliver off one of his dozens of small fruit trees.

All GIFS from National Geographic.

Then, he makes a small cut on the branch of the established tree to bring them together.

Finally, he uses a special tape to seal everything, creating almost a small greenhouse right at the incision.

With some sunlight, water, and TLC, the two plants will grow together.

Hundreds of chip grafts and several years later, you have a Tree of 40 Fruit.

Since each variety of fruit blossoms at a different time, Van Aken meticulously plots the location of each branch, essentially designing and sculpting the tree from the ground up.


Van Aken's road map for Tree 75. Image by Sam Van Aken, courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Art.

Each tree takes years to mature and develop, which means Van Aken has over a dozen trees in progress.

Tree 75 blooming in 2012. Photo by Sam Van Aken, courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Art

He likes to plant the trees in public spaces to encourage inquiry and spark conversation.

The trees can be seen everywhere from the campus of Syracuse University, to a hotel and gallery in Bentonville, Arkansas. There's even a small grove of eight trees at Thompson Point, a mixed-use retail area in Portland, Maine.


Tree Number 75 at Syracuse University in 2013. Photo by Sam Van Aken, courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Art.

Each tree is meant to be shared, enjoyed, and pondered. The entire project toys with the viewer's concept of reality, and Van Aken enjoys straddling the border of truth and science fiction.

"Once they happen upon these trees, they would start to question, 'Why are the leaves shaped differently? Why are they different colors?'" he told National Geographic in a video profile earlier this year.

But this project is bigger than art — there are conservation implications as well.

Many of the seeds and plants Van Aken used for the project are no longer used by commercial growers because of size, shelf life, and, yes, even aesthetics. As Van Aken said in a recent TED talk, "People generally don't like a yellow plum."

Delicious yellow plums that Big Produce doesn't want you to have. Photo by Sam Van Aken, courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Art.

The Tree of 40 Fruit puts the seeds and plants back to work. In an email with Upworthy, Van Aken said he's using proceeds from the sale of his trees to create an heirloom fruit orchard and field guide to study the precious plants.

The Tree of 40 Fruit is a living, breathing tasty work of art. And you can see it come to life in this short video by National Geographic:

Heroes

A new Harriet Tubman statue sculpted by Emmy and Academy award-winner Wesley Wofford has been revealed, and its symbolism is moving to say the least.

Harriet Tubman was the best known "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses that helped thousands of enslaved black Americans make their way to freedom in the north in the early-to-mid 1800s. Tubman herself escaped slavery in 1849, then kept returning to the Underground Railroad, risking her life to help lead others to freedom. She worked as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, and after the war dedicated her life to helping formerly enslaved people try to escape poverty.

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Heroes

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Kenneth Goldsmith / Twitter

The Hillary Clinton email scandal was a major right-wing talking point during the 2016 election that aimed to create an air of suspicion around the candidate.

The media played right into it turning Clinton — one of the most qualified candidates to ever run for the office — appear just as unworthy of the presidency as Trump, a vulgar, politically-inexperienced pathological liar.

The controversy surrounded Clinton's use of a private email account in which over 30,000 emails were sent during her time as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. An FBI interrogation found there were 110 confidential emails sent from her private account.

Clinton was never criminally charged, however FBI director James Comey said she was "extremely careless."

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Democracy

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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