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School tour bears fruit


by Victor Calderón

Environmental group brings trees for students to plant on campuses

To beating of drums, students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy in Salinas on Wednesday welcomed some green additions to their school garden.

As first reported in TheCalifornian.com, the California Fruit Tree Tour - a caravan of volunteers in colorful vegetable-oil-powered vehicles who use fruit trees and environmental lessons to transform urban schoolyards across the state each year - was in its second day of helping spruce up Salinas schools

Students at the Alisal Union School District site helped each other plant 15 trees and took part in West African drumming lessons and Earth-conscious hip-hop singing.

"It's been fun and exciting helping plant trees, and the entertainment was fun, too," said fourth-grade student Leandra Barcenas, 9.

The tour, now in its third year, is sponsored by Common Vision, a nonprofit ecological advocacy organization.

The buses are in the eighth week of a 10-week tour from San Diego to Sacramento.

The group stops at schools in 20 cities to offer its day-long interactive outdoor program.

The team of about 27 volunteers visited Frank Paul Elementary School in Salinas on Tuesday, program officials said.

"The program gives students a hands-on opportunity to do positive things for their environment," said Michael Flynn, director of educational programs for Common Vision.

"The integration of the arts into the day's planting activities gives the students inspiration to maintain a culture of Earth stewardship."

The tour last came to King Academy in 2005, when students planted about 15 trees, Flynn said.

School leaders said the trees have given students a chance to harvest their own fruits for school lunches.

"It really brings home the message of 'This is our Earth, and we need to take care of it now,'" said Kim DeRenzo, who promotes nutrition education and oversees the school garden at King Academy.

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