A kindergarten class in Arlington Heights got the most out of their applesauce and fruit cup containers.
For last month's "Wreath-Cycled Challenge," hosted by the Shedd Aquarium, the 5- and 6-year olds in Kristin Drake's class at St. Peter Lutheran School found the containers could be transformed into ornaments for a holiday wreath.
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The entire wreath had to be made out of recycled and recyclable materials.
Consequently, the students used a little red paint (biodegradable, of course), some green raffia ribbon -- made of degradable and recyclable paper -- tied around a metal wreath, and dotted with balls of aluminum foil for sparkle.
It added up to a winner.
Students from St. Peter's won "Facebook Fan Favorite," one of five awards given, out of the more than 160 submissions from schools across the city and suburbs.
The complete gallery of wreaths hung on display until last week around the Shedd's Caribbean Reef exhibit in the grand rotunda.
Just before Christmas, students from all the schools that participated were invited to the Shedd for a special holiday celebration. Students and their families received their awards before exploring the museum and its exhibits.
The contest came at a good time for St. Peter students, since the school launched a recycling program at the start of the school year. They program, Project Genesis, was introduced to them as an Eagle Scout project by former student Brandon Zuercher, now a sophomore at John Hersey High School.
"We're already looking at all of our containers after snack time and lunch to see if they have the recyclable symbol on them," Drake said. "The wreath project just helped make it a little more real."
The top 25 wreaths were posted on the Shedd's Facebook page, where fans could "like" their favorites. After a week of voting, when Drake's students would check their status every day, they ultimately emerged as the favorite.
"The wreath project went hand in hand with our new recycling program," says Principal Bruce Rudi.
"They're already separating their trash," he adds, "and here they were able to use their creativity to get some use out of it."
As a result of their award, Drake and her students won the chance to have one of the education staff members from the Shedd's community outreach program present to their class.
They can choose the time and topic, and already Drake is thinking of having them come out this spring for her "around the world" unit. Students visit every continent, including Australia, where Drake hopes the Shedd educators will bring to life the Coral Reef.