Plantapalooza a hit with students

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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Leaving class Friday, the students at Twelve Bridges Elementary School walked carefully, abandoning their normal habit of running as they clutched their newest treasures – basil plants. The second-annual Plantapalooza plant festival at the school was a success, with more than 750 students each taking home their own basil plant, according to Science Teacher Tom Toy. Handing out some of those plants Friday morning were members of the Sun City Lincoln Hills Garden Group. “It’s just invigorating,” said Marilyn Buckhorn, a member of the garden group. “We just have very unusual projects, like (landscaping) the front of the school. We planted plants, laid bark and put in rocks.” Buckhorn said the students planted their basil seeds and were excited Friday to be able to take home the plants. “They were all really good,” Buckhorn said. “They’re great children…fun to work with.” Fifth graders C.J. Lomba and Kellie MacCracken were happy to show off their school’s agricultural amenities, including an orchard with one tree for each teacher, a greenhouse and planter boxes full of flowers, strawberries and other plants the students cultivated. One of the activities for fifth graders during Plantapalooza involved studying worms. “My friends were all like, ‘eww, how can you touch worms?’ ” Kellie said. “I told them, ‘I’ve grown up with worms all my life.’ ” Since joining the school’s Garden Club – open to all students – C.J. has taken a liking to gardening. “He started doing it at the house,” said C.J.’s mother, Sylvia Lomba. “Mr. Toy has taught him a lot. He’s a garden boy.” Students learn all about the life cycle of plants, from seed to harvesting, and C.J. and Kellie are both part of the “Compost Crew,” which involves them picking up numerous items on campus, including apple cores, and using them to make compost to help the plants grow. For Plantapalooza, each grade level had a guest speaker, including a Sierra College professor, an artist doubling as an ecologist and – most popular among the kindergarteners – a beekeeper. “The kids totally love it,” Toy said, adding that the rest of the faculty and administrators are very supportive of the festival. Toy said he looks forward to an even better event next year.