Cap collection leads to life lessons for students



Outside some schools in Jackson County, benches or trees that were donated by a class or group can be found.

It’s their way of leaving a mark for years to come.

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At Brownstown Elementary School, fourth-graders in Abbi Young’s classroom want to do just that.

At the end of January, they kicked off a plastic caps and lids drive through a program called A Bench for Caps.

After the drive ends March 17, all of the caps and lids will be taken to Green Tree Plastics Evansville to be weighed. The number of benches brought back to Brownstown will depend on the total weight.

Young said the goal is five benches. Right now, they have enough for two.

No matter how many they end up getting for the school, the students will be able to return there years down the road, see the benches and smile knowing they were a part of the project.

“I think it’s important for kids to understand being good citizens and what it takes,” Young said. “It’s very important to teach kids what they do makes a huge difference, and just what we’re doing in a small way will make a huge difference, and it will impact for years to come, so it’s a great life lesson students can learn from this.”

Young said Jane Weisman has collected caps and lids at the middle school before, so she thought it would be a good service learning project for her class.

The students wrote a proposal and presented it to Principal Chrystal Street. Once they gained her approval, they were ready to start the project.

Young’s class is separated into teams that are responsible for different tasks.

The advertising group initially announced the project to the school and since then has continued to make announcements. They also made fliers and spread the news by word of mouth.

Another group came up with a way to count and organize the caps and lids, which are being stored in the corner of a room next to Young’s classroom.

They separate the caps and lids by the different groups at the school — preschool/kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade and staff members.

“We weigh the caps versus counting them because that’s what we will do when we take them (to Evansville),” Young said.

The communications group helped write the proposal, wrote letters and will send thank-yous to people who donated. They also recently went to each classroom in the school and reminded them to collect caps and lids.

Finally, there’s a data group that created charts for a bulletin board outside Young’s classroom to track the collection. One area has a bar graph showing the total pounds collected for each bench, as it takes 200 pounds to make one. Another chart shows how much has been collected by each grade on a weekly basis, and another one shows which group is in the overall lead.

The data group also surveyed the school to see what the reward should be for the grade level donating the most pounds of caps and lids.

The result? An extra recess.

“We keep each week where they’re at, and we try to get on the announcements at the beginning of the week,” Young said. “My advertising group gets on there and writes their own script and does announcements.”

In a month, enough caps and lids were collected to make two benches. The last day for students and staff members to donate is March 16.

Then from 9 to 11 a.m. March 17, there will be a drop-off event where anyone can take caps and lids to Door 19 on the back side of the elementary school.

Young and her husband, Marty, plan to take the collection to Evansville during spring break. Then a date will be determined to present the benches to the school and have a celebration.

While there are many lessons learned through the project, Young said perhaps the biggest one is citizenship.

“They’re working on being good citizens, and we’ve talked a lot about that,” she said. “You have to give back to your school, and this is your job, and you have to find ways to always make it better.”

There’s also a lot of math involved when it comes to weighing the containers or bags of caps and lids.

“You can’t sit three pounds on a scale. That’s not going to work,” Young said. “So the kids have to first step on there themselves, weigh themselves, then step off and hold (the bag or container) and then step on there and do the subtraction. They have to figure out the differences, and it’s subtracting and adding decimals.”

Students have learned about the importance of recycling, too.

“They are talking about recycling,” Young said. “Even in language arts, if I can find a fictional reading about recycling or caps or anything along those lines, I have my students engaged, that’s for sure.”

Young’s students said it has been fun watching the collection increase every week.

“It’s just going up and up and up each week,” Finley Wheeler said. “Sometimes, it’s lower, and then some weeks, it’s higher.”

Ty Reynolds said it has been interesting seeing the different shapes, sizes and colors of caps and lids being donated. They don’t weigh much individually, but it’s different when they are all put together.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Ty said.

Lucas Auffenberg said his family has been collecting caps and lids at home, which has resulted in them thinking of recycling more.

Jenna Boknecht said she has learned a lot about recycling through the project.

“You can reuse lots of stuff and get something else that’s better,” she said.

Once the benches are outside the school, the students agreed it will be great knowing their class led the effort.

“It makes you feel good,” Ty said.

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Led by Abbi Young’s fourth-grade classroom, Brownstown Elementary School students are collecting plastic caps and lids to be recycled into benches to place outside the school.

The goal is to have enough caps and lids to make five benches. They currently have enough for two. It takes 200 pounds of caps and lids to make one bench.

Acceptable caps include medicine bottle caps, milk jug caps, detergent caps, hair spray caps, toothpaste cube caps, deodorant caps, drink bottle caps, flip-top caps from ketchup and mustard bottles, spout caps from mustard bottles, spray paint caps, ointment tube caps and caps with recycle numbers 2, 4 and 5.

Acceptable lids include cottage cheese container lids, mayonnaise jar lids, yogurt lids, peanut butter jar lids, ice cream bucket lids under 8 inches, Cool Whip container lids, coffee can lids, cream cheese container lids, butter container lids and prescription bottles with the labels removed.

Students can bring in caps and lids through March 16. Then from 9 to 11 a.m. March 17 at the elementary school, the public is invited to drop off caps and lids at Door 19 on the back side of the building.


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