Why are students so proud of the 50-gallon barrel on display at Hopewell Early Childhood School?
It’s filled with old caps and lids that the K-2 students are recycling to turn into benches for their school.
Before the year and a half long project is over, the students will have literally sorted through a ton of used caps and lids. The school is participating in the ABC (A Bench for Caps) Program, an initiative invented by kids as a tool to learn about caring for the earth. Earned benches belong to the students and are placed where the students can show others the results of their work and the value of recycling.
Every 200 pounds of lids can be turned into a bench, and Hopewell ECS has a goal to provide ten new benches for the school grounds. (That’s why their motto is “We need a Ton of Lids!”)
On Earth Day, Hopewell ECS held another one of its school-wide sorting days where students go through caps and sort them based on specifications from the company. They separated acceptable caps from the unacceptable ones, and some classes have even washed dirty lids to help them become acceptable.
The students are learning that even the youngest members of society can help protect the earth, while practicing skills like problem-solving, teamwork and more.
“My favorite part about sorting caps is working together,” said Wyatt. Classmate Noah agreed, “I like helping people when they need help sorting lids.”
Izzy discovered how to make the job more efficient. "I like carrying the caps on one big cap to dump it. It's easier.”
And students have found ways to turn the project into a little fun as well.
"I like slam dunking them into the basket,” said Ethan A. “I like dumping a lot of sorted lids in because it makes a loud sound,” added Ethan S.
How did the idea for the program come up? When Assistant Principal, Melissa Myers, noticed many broken down or unusable benches around Hopewell ECS, she enlisted Speech and Language Pathologist, Cathy Sieber to help jumpstart the ABC Program. Both are passionate about recycling and repurposing, and they soon energized the whole school community to be part of the initiative.
Teachers have set up sort stations for morning choice time. The PTO hosted a cap sorting evening, and even sponsored a competition for collecting caps which brought in over 600 pounds. Community members have been dropping off their lid collections weekly to the bins located in the school office.
What are the results so far? Three new benches have been installed at the school, with four more being added this summer. Hopewell ECS will continue to collect caps throughout the summer and fall to finish out the remaining three benches.
“Students are learning to recycle, reuse and repurpose different materials to make something useful for our school community,” said Sieber. “They are learning that hard work and dirty work pay off in the end.”
Myers added, “Students are also learning about being part of a community-wide group effort. And the school community is learning that 5-, 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds can make a profound impact and to not put age limitations on success.”
And what do the students think?
“I enjoyed working with my friends to sort the caps. It is fun to do something to help our school,” said Maylee. “I love sitting on our new benches with my friends.”
“Blue is my favorite color,” said Adam. “I noticed that the benches are a grayish blue with speckles of rainbow.”
JJ summed it up well, “Our favorite part is that we could see the progress from all our hard work when the benches showed up on the playground.”
Hopewell ECS wants to help other Lakota schools start the program; it also hopes to revisit the program in the future to help create an outdoor classroom area with recycled picnic tables.