PAMS students see fruition of December tulip planting

PUNXSUTAWNEY — It was perhaps difficult to realize with 40-some degree temperatures Tuesday, but yet another sign that spring is here bloomed this week at the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center.

In December, five Punxsutawney Area Middle School fifth-graders — John Buffington, Guy Heckler, Bailey Jones, Megan Ray and Liam Storms, advised by Jeff Kuntz — began their participation in Journey North’s Tulip Garden and Climate Change study, during which they planted Red Emperor tulips and tracked the approach of spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

Journey North, aware that Punxsutawney is indeed the Weather Capital of the World, invited guests to its Web site to see “how ... the science of folklore and weather prediction intersect.”

The students planted their tulips in front of the Weather Discovery Center Dec. 6, 2011, about which Mary Jean Johnston, project administrator at the center,described, “It was a foggy, misty, damp afternoon (52 degrees) when the tulip bulbs were planted. The dirt was moist, bone meal was added, along with some garden dirt mixed into the flower bed.”

And March 5, the bulbs emerged, about which Johnston wrote, “With a blustery temperature of 28 degrees, a wind chill of 20 degrees, and wind gusts up to 20 mph, the tulips were spotted emerging from the ground (Even Punxsy Phil knows that it’s still winter!) It’s so cold that the ruler wouldn’t stay in the frozen ground for measuring purposes. It seems like these are very determined flowers to pop out and begin the spring season.”

Tuesday, three of the students — Buffington, Jones and Storms, along with AmeriCorps teacher Karen Drozd — visited the Weather Discovery Center to see their tulips — which bloomed Tuesday — in person.

Three months is a bit of time to wait for newly-planted tulips to emerge, and the students acknowledged that they were curious. Buffington said he stopped by to see the bulbs a while ago, but they were still covered by snow.

The tulips will remain at the Weather Discovery Center for the rest of the season, and the experiment has inspired Jones to plant her own vegetable garden at home.

Journey North, a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change, also examines species, such as American robins; bald eagles; frogs; hummingbirds, butterflies; gray whales; and more, depending on where students reside.