There is no shortage of decorations in stores during the holiday season; however, Princess Anne Elementary School (PAES) students looked no further than their own trashcans to deck the halls.
Pizza boxes and soda cans.
Plastic bags and sporks.
Bubble wrap and egg cartons.
Coffee sleeves and magazines.
Pizza boxes, sporks and magazines?
These are not your traditional holiday decorations.
Capitalizing on the creativity of the season, PAES library media specialist Leslie Allman established a “wreathcycling” project to help students learn about sustainability as well as show their holiday spirit. Participating students and/or classes gathered second-use materials to create holiday wreaths that were displayed in the school’s hallways.
Allman likes that the project is educational as well as a conversation starter. “Lots of families who participated together told me how they had great conversations with kids about sustainability as they were designing their wreaths,” she said. “Students are really thinking about the importance of reducing and reusing and keeping waste out of the landfill.”
The next step of the wreathcycling project will be for students to research whether or not the materials used in their wreaths are a threat to the environment and if they can be replaced with more sustainable items. This research will help students produce public service announcements to share their findings.
To support these efforts, Allman was awarded a Virginia Beach Education Foundation (VBEF) Sustainability Impact Project grant. These grants support projects designed to enhance student learning of the social, economic and environmental impacts of the community’s waste stream on local watersheds. They also require a partnership with TFC Recycling, Lynnhaven River Now or the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Jody Ullmann, Lynnhaven River NOW Education and Pearl School Coordinator, helped judge the wreaths. She was very impressed by second-grader Caycee Cooper’s wreath, “A Clean Christmas on the Beach,” because the items used are no longer at risk of polluting area waterways. The wreath was made with balloons, plastic rings and other trash Caycee found on the beach.
“Balloons kill sea turtles,” explained Caycee. “By picking up balloons off the beach, turtles won’t become extinct and sea creatures can live happy in the ocean without trash.”
The wreath made by fourth-grader Hunter Roche and his second-grade sister Payton, named “Razzle Dazzle Recycling Wreath,” won the People’s Choice award. It featured weekly newspaper circulars folded into fans and Diet Coke cans cut to make a shining silver star and wavy garland. When asked what he learned from the project, Hunter replied, “It’s good to know that some things don’t have to go into a landfill and you can make beautiful things out of them.”
The VBEF Sustainability Impact Project grant supporting the wreathcycling project is underwritten by Waller Todd & Sadler Architects. To view descriptions of other 2014 VBEF grant recipients and see the individuals, organizations and businesses supporting the education foundation, visit the VBEF website here.