Would you bite into a 30-year-old Twinkie in the name of science?

The essence of science is asking questions. Questions like, “What does a 30-year-old Twinkie taste like?”

That particular inquiry was made in the pre-Google year of 1992 by John Park’s fifth-grade students at Hacienda Environmental Science Magnet School in San Jose. They sealed two of the sponge-cake snacks — which pop culture tells us will survive anything — into a PVC time capsule, which was among several unearthed to mark the 50th anniversary of the school’s unique Outdoor Classroom.

Park returned to the school for a celebration Friday morning where he was joined by Lucita Cady, one of his students back in 1992 who pledged with the rest of her class — in writing — to sample the ancient Twinkie in 2022. Park took a bite of the Twinkie, discolored brown and stuck to its plastic wrapper, and Cady took a nibble. The verdict?

“It tastes like PVC,” Park declared.

Science is all about learning, kids, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be gross, too.

Lucita Cady, left, and Hacienda School Principal Todd Weber, right, watch as former Hacienda teacher John Park bites into a Twinkie preserved in 1992 in a time capsule at the school’s Outdoor Classroom during a celebration Friday, April 22, 2022. (Sal Pizarro /Bay Area News Group)

The other oblong capsules contained a multitude of 1990s artifacts: Joe Montana and Bo Jackson sports cards, several trading cards from “Beverly Hills, 90210,” a Fantasy 5 lotto ticket, a poster of “The Simpsons” (yep, they’ve been around that long), an MC Hammer cassette tape (remember those? remember him?), some well-preserved newspapers and magazines, and even a 3.5-inch floppy disk.

But the most treasured items might be the letters students wrote to their future selves. Cady read part of hers her aloud to the crowd of more than 50 people who gathered at the school for the celebration. She wondered if she grew up to be an actress and hoped that a cure for AIDS had been discovered. Ten-year-old Lucita wrote that she was listening to Hot 97.7, noting that was a radio station, just in case those didn’t still exist in the future.

Cady, who now lives in the Sacramento area, said reading the letter and watching a video interview each member of her class did with Park in 1992 made her glad that she encourages the dreams of her children — 9-year-old Aiyana and 14- year-old Isaias — who accompanied her Friday. “This doesn’t happen to people. Who gets to hear from themselves when they were 10?” said Cady, who works as a sales manager. “It’s once in a lifetime.”

A Joe Montana sports card, “Beverly Hills 90210” trading cards and a California Lottery ticket were among the 1992 artifacts recovered from time capsules for the anniversary celebration of Hacienda Environmental Science Magnet school’s Outdoor Classroom on April 22, 2022 in San Jose. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)

And it all comes back to the Outdoor Classroom, which was created during the heyday of the environmental movement in 1971 at what was then Valley View Elementary near Almaden Expressway and Hillsdale Avenue. Retired teacher Edy Young was at Friday’s 50th anniversary event — they stretched it a year because of the pandemic — and told the origin story of how teachers, staff and parents got together to transform a vacant, one-acre dirt lot into a representation of the surrounding Santa Clara Valley plant communities so the suburban students could connect with nature before it was all gone.

The surrounding cherry orchards were being converted to housing, so the school got 157 dump truck loads of orchard topsoil to create hills. A couple of years later, another teacher, Carolyn Flanagan, joined more volunteers to create the concrete-lined ponds and stream beds and plant redwood seedlings that tower over the space today. In the late 1970s, the Outdoor Classroom was abandoned after Valley View’s science program was eliminated, and a fire in the early ’80s resulted in much of the original landscaping getting scrapped.

San Jose Water paid for much of a 1992 renovation of the Outdoor Classroom at Hacienda Environmental Science Magnet school, including refurbishing the ponds, pumps and sprinkler system. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)

Young and Flanagan returned to the school in the ’80s and San Jose Water “adopted” the school and paid for much of a massive expansion and renovation of the space that was completed in 1992. While many people and groups contributed to the effort, lots of those who spoke at Friday’s event credited the amazing job to project manager Randal Locke, who oversaw the renovation of the pond, stream, pumps and sprinkler system. He did such a good job that it took San Jose Water workers using heavy equipment 10 hours to dismantle the monolith containing the time capsules. (Hacienda parent David Manzo made a time-lapse video of the demolition that’s on his Bejaw Productions YouTube channel.)

Locke wrote a note in one of the capsules thanking people who worked on the project. It read, “Dear Friends in the Future, The names listed here represent the best people in our time. They cared enough in the middle of a deep recession to build this unique project. I sincerely hope most return in April 2022.”

Many of the 1992 crews were there Friday, but not Locke, who died in 2017. His wife, Teresa, and his daughter, Lindsay, represented him, though, and were given a white hard hat, adorned with a yellow lightning bolt and a light bulb, that he wore.

Lindsay Locke holds a hard hat that belonged to her dad, Randal Locke, who was the project manager on the 1992 expansion of Hacienda school’s Outdoor Classroom. He passed away in 2017. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)

San Jose Water’s Corporate Communications Manager Sharon Whaley, whose program and name tag from the 1992 dedication was included in a time capsule, said Locke had “constant vision.”

“He was, ‘It could be big. It could be better. We could do more. We could do this.’ We had to rein him in because this project had to end. So Randal was fondly remembered by everyone.”

And that includes John Park. When he told Locke about the idea of ​​putting a Twinkie in one of the time capsules, “he said we couldn’t do that because it had too much moisture,” Park remembered. “The next day, he showed up with the perfect time capsule the size of a Twinkie.”

ENCORE SHOWING: If you missed the premiere showing of director Bob Gliner’s “Queer Silicon Valley” documentary back in February, it’s being screened again April 27 at the Hammer Theater Center in downtown San Jose. Tickets to the 7 pm film — co-produced by the BAYMEC Community Foundation — are $10 at the door, and you can find out more about former Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager’s history project that spawned the film at www.queersiliconvalley.org.

GARDEN PARTY: The San Jose Garden Club‘s annual plant sale is coming up April 29-30 at 1190 Camino Ramon, between Willow Street and Minnesota Avenue, in San Jose. The offerings include flowers, vegetables and succulents grown by club members, and proceeds will benefit nonprofits including Veggielution, Our City Forest, Valley Verde and Sacred Heart Community Service’s La Mesa Verde Garden Project. It runs 9 am to 4 pm Friday and 8 am to 3 pm Saturday.

HONORING A LEGACY: Retired Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell will be the keynote speaker for the 11th annual Jim McEntee Scholarship Benefit, which will be held virtually April 26. The 5:30 pm event also will feature remarks from Peter Pham and Estefany Meza, two recipients of the scholarships named in memory of McEntee, who founded the nonprofit Friends of Human Relations in Santa Clara County in 1985. Go to www.friendsofhumanrelations.org for a link to the Zoom webinar.

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