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Tulip project to tell about spring’s worldwide onset

December 9, 2011

Punxsutawney Area Middle School students participating in Journey North’s spring-climate project are (from left) Megan Ray, Bailey Jones, Liam Storms, Guy Heckler and John Buffington. (Photo submitted)

It’s the battle of titans the world has awaited for more than 100 years, beginning this winter and ending this coming spring.

In this corner, Punxsutawney Phil; in the opposite corner, science.
But Punxsutawney Area Middle School students taking part in a program to track the growth of tulips in various parts of the world — and taking into consideration the onset of spring — believe their hometown hero will emerge victorious.

“They think they will be right along with Phil” and his Feb. 2 prognostication, whatever it may be, said PAMS fifth-grade teacher Jeff Kuntz.

The five students — John Buffington, Guy Heckler, Bailey Jones, Megan Ray and Liam Storms — have taken on the tulip project through Journey North, a program that studies global wildlife migration and seasonal change.

In beginning the project, students plant and observe tulip test gardens to track the arrival of spring, observing and recording when their own plants — and those in other school gardens across the Northern Hemisphere — emerge from the ground and bloom.

The Punxsy students planted 10 tulips Tuesday at the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center, whose project administrator, Mary Jean Johnston, contacted Kuntz about the event.

The Journey North Web site allows student test-gardeners — from areas not only in the United States, but also Europe and Asia — to chart the progress of the tulips.

Tuesday, for example, the PAMS students observed that the weather was “foggy, misty and damp (52 degrees),” while the day before, first-graders at Redding Elementary School in Redding, Conn., planted their tulips in sunny and 55-degree weather.

Journey North says as students track the progress of their tulips, they also record temperatures, day length and other seasonal signs and see how different factors influence plant growth, which then allows for a better understanding of the changing climate.

Kuntz, who teaches math and social studies at the middle school, said the five students and their parents planted the tulips. He also said the students will have to wait a while before they start to see their tulips begin to emerge.

Johnston said she was contacted by Journey North because the group views Punxsutawney as the epicenter of spring.

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