With school out for summer, it was time to head for the cannery.
These weren't students with summer jobs processing fruit. They were teachers touring the Del Monte Foods plant in Modesto.
It was part of a four-day program held this week in which 10 teachers learned about farming and food processing in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
"I just wanted to tie in agriculture to our science studies and have the kids relate to what's around them," said Stefanie Wedde, a science teacher at Livingston Middle School.
The program was sponsored by the organizers of the Ag Science Center, an interactive museum planned at Modesto Junior College.
The teachers learned about soil, genetics, nutrition and other topics. They dropped by the Modesto Certified Farmers Market and the Loretelli Farms produce stand.
They saw the solar system that heats the cooking oil for SunChips at the Modesto Frito-Lay plant. And they watched how methane from cow manure is burned to make electricity at Fiscalini Cheese Co.
"You see applications of science in the industry and are able to bring that back contextually to the classroom," said Gary Beebout, a science teacher at Somerset Middle School in Modesto.
At Del Monte, the group watched the processing of apricots, the first stage in a canning season that will peak with peaches in midsummer and end with pears in fall.
Modesto plant maintenance superintendent Jim Mortensen, whose college training was in chemistry, stressed the scientific aspects of the operation. He talked of how the fruit is tested for sweetness and other traits as well as how the cannery cut its energy use and emissions.
He showed how plastic fruit cups are assembled into four-packs with the help of an Archimedes screw. This device, based on a technology created by the ancient Greek inventor and mathematician, flips the cups so they are facing the right way.
"There's nothing like a little old-time physics, right?" Mortensen said.
Harold Reeve, a science teacher at Central Valley Christian Academy in Ceres, said he especially enjoyed learning about biotechnology's role in food production.
"The kids really respond better to the applied science than the pure science," he said.
The program also highlighted career prospects for these same students, Reeve said.
"We visited a lot of places where I saw that, yeah, there are jobs in science," he said.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2385.