Students Use 21st Century Skills to Recycle and Produce Great Results

Students at Ephrata Intermediate and Middle Schools (EIMS) are continuing their efforts this school year after discovering first-hand what can be created from recycled materials.  

Last fall, students set a goal to collect a variety of plastic bottle and container caps to recycle to create a bench for their school. EIMS students were inspired by the work of a group of middle school students in the Midwest who initiated the creation of the ABC (A Bench of Caps) program; they wanted to personally participate in the program too.

Approximately 200 pounds of caps would be needed to create the bench, so students set a goal and began their collection efforts.  The EIMS Makerspace served as the hub for students to collect, sort, clean, weigh, and pack the caps.  “Before we knew it, we had collected way more than our initial goal,” said Mrs. Brooke Gerlach, EIMS Media Center Specialist.  In just two months, students collected 1,700 pounds of caps, enough to create three benches!

The caps needed to be transported to ABC headquarters in Indiana, where the benches would be created, so students brainstormed ways to get the caps there.  “Because of the expense to ship, we decided it would be better to drive the caps there,” explained Mrs. Gerlach.  The EIMS PTO covered the cost to have Mrs. Gerlach and her husband drive the caps to Indiana to have the benches produced.  A detailed summary of the process is available here:

“Our goal this year is to continue our collection and get as many benches as caps we collect,” said Mrs. Gerlach.  Students have already collected over 250 pounds this year.

This project has provided an authentic learning opportunity for students in many ways, from engaging classmates and community members through the collection, understanding the process of recycling to create the benches, and utilizing 21st century skills – including collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and more – throughout the duration of the project.  “Additionally, this project is a reminder of what we can do when we all work together to reach a common goal,” concluded Mrs. Gerlach.