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Casey Christie / The Californian

At William Penn Elementary School Thursday, PG

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Casey Christie / The Californian

Joe Stewart, PG

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Casey Christie / The Californian

In the William Penn Elementary School garden Thursday, lots of work took place as PG

A group of 19 after-school children packed roots of low-growing fruit trees into a side garden Thursday at William Penn Elementary School.

The students, part of a cape-coated gardening club, stomped scoop-fulls of dirt around grapefruit, orange and mandarin trees.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. had donated the vegetation, which also included shade bushes, in an early Arbor Day effort to promote safe-planting practices such as keeping foliage away from power lines.

PG&E spokeswoman Katie Allen said the percentage of Kern County power outages caused by trees interfering with power lines has dropped from about 59 percent to 6.7 percent since 2008, due in part to such outreach events.

She said the company seizes any opportunity to educate the community about safe-planting practices.

"And Arbor Week's a good time to do it," she said.

Nonprofit, school and community groups throughout California celebrated Arbor Week March 7-14 to increase awareness about the benefits of planting trees. National Arbor Day will take place April 25 this year.

Amber Beeson, who volunteers with the gardening club at William Penn, said local workers with the nonprofit Kern Green garden education program have trained about 130 teachers, parents and volunteers to develop and sustain community gardens.

Beeson also serves as program manager of Kern Green and director of the The Giving Tree Project, a local benefit corporation that established the garden at William Penn on San Emidio Street in 2012.

Her son, Nicolas (a member of the school's planting club), wore a cape Thursday as part of an activity to create super hero personalities. He called himself "Garden Man."

Vinnie Robles, 7-year-old "Gold Man," wore a yellow cape; and Kayleigh Beavers, "Butterfly Girl," wore pink.

The group had just received the pink, yellow, red and blue club capes a couple days ago. They are still excited, Beeson said as she watched the group take turns planting trees.

The program she voluntarily leads at William Penn is one of several the Kern Green organization helped support. The group has partnerships with about 20 schools to start school gardens in Kern County.

Beeson contracted with the Bakersfield City School District to design plots for three schools, but she said the organization's purpose is to educate students through helping schools start self-sustaining projects.

"The goal is to empower our community to build their own gardens," Beeson said.