Class shows off green thumbs

The school year might be coming to a close for Kerry Vumbaco's class at Pinewood Intermediate School, but the growing season has just begun.

The students in Vumbaco's third-through-fifth grade special education class have spent the past several weeks getting their hands dirty planting cucumbers, tomatoes and flowers in their classroom's portable greenhouse.

Members of the class gave a PowerPoint presentation to family members Thursday, June 12, in the Pinewood Cafeteria as part of their year-end garden party.

The party was a celebration of the year's accomplishments, which included both the planting unit and a supercharged effort by students to aid the endangered Karner Blue butterfly.

The 12-member class took a field trip earlier this year to the Pinebush Preserve where they planted a number of blue lupine seeds. Blue lupines, Vumbaco said, are the Karner Blue's primary source of food.

Student Matthew Hupe could barely read when he joined Vumbaco's class earlier this year. Now, said his mother Rella, Matthew reads signs for the Pinebush Preserve when the family travels on Kings Road.

He says 'I went there,' and he wants to stop again, said Rella Hupe.

Hupe said her son also memorized his portion of the PowerPoint presentation, on the story "The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush."

Other parents were equally impressed by the accomplishments of the class. Rob Constantine said he was proud that his daughter Victoria had taken an interest in the environment.

"There's a social responsibility out there, and it's good to have people at a young age that are trying to help," said Constantine.

Students grew attached to the tiny Karner Blue when they learned it lived in their neighborhoods. The tiny butterfly, which was first identified and named by novelist Vladimir Nabokov, has only a 1-inch wingspan.

After conducting a schoolwide vote, Vumbaco's students lobbied the State Legislature in an attempt to have the species recognized as the state butterfly. Students even garnered the support of Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Amsterdam, who visited the class in December.

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