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2,000 sixth graders learn about environment
Neil Hafley School sixth grader Kevin Cruz gives a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach a little kiss at the Clark Pest Control Bug Zoo tent at Thursday event. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

It was a party like no other. The guests – some 2,000 of them – were sixth graders. There were food and drinks, and a lot of fun things to see and do. But, most of all, there was plenty of learning opportunities for everyone on how to responsibly preserve the environment for posterity.

That was the predominant goal of Wednesday’s second annual Planet Party, an “environmental celebration” for all sixth graders in the Manteca Unified School District which co-hosts the educational field trip with the Manteca Unified Student Trust and the Leadership on Green Initiatives Committee.

In the Health Plan of San Joaquin booth, presenter Jonathan Szkotak asked the students if they have an idea how many people in the county suffer from asthma. After listening to some wild guesses, pharmacist Szkotak informed his young listeners that “one in five people in San Joaquin County has asthma.”

The reason they are being part of Planet Party, he said, is “to raise asthma awareness” and, along with it, the importance of maintaining clean air for a healthy environment.

In the City of Lathrop’s presentation booth, city engineer Mary Grace Houlihan’s topic was about saving streams and lakes from pollution. The decimation of fields or forests as a result of building construction or pavement projects can lead to further pollution of water sources, Houlihan told the students during her discussion on the importance of maintaining clean water.

There were plenty of opportunities for the sixth graders to expand their knowledge on these and other environmental issues that impact their future and that of future generations, thanks to the presence of various experts in other studies and disciplines. The Manteca-based American Modular Systems (AMS), for example, had the husband and wife team of Steven and Hannah Coles telling the students about the company’s eco-friendly, state-of-the-art school modular buildings called Gen7 that are constructed using cutting-edge technology with conservation and energy efficiency in mind. The students saw and learned how their old denims can be recycled and transformed into something that goes into the building of these smart “school of the future.” At the end of the presentation, the students received biodegradable bracelets from AMS.

Chris Bristow and Mike Rubino of IES and IEC, the company that provides green solutions to schools such as those in the Manteca Unified School District, explained to students the importance of saving energy. Bristow said that based on his work with many school districts, he found Manteca Unified to be “the most energy-efficient school district in the Central Valley.”

One of the displays that garnered plenty of interest among the students was Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s exhibit of a working Sun Oven where solar energy was being used to bake cookies in the shiny contraption. The level of excitement among the students was also heightened once they entered the Bug Zoo that was the main feature inside the Clark Pest Control booth. Among the main attractions were exotic bugs such as the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach which some of the braver students handled. The students also had the opportunity to taste test three types of flavored larvae. For their bravery and adventurous nature, they were rewarded with a tote bag courtesy of the pest-control company.