HENNEPIN — Putnam County Elementary School recently hosted its 18th annual Trash to Treasure Expo. With global pollution and the challenge to find effective ways to deal with overwhelming amounts of waste, this event is more relevant than ever.
This project challenges fourth-grade students to find castoff materials around their homes and transform them into something new and useful.
During the event, the students bordered the gymnasium with their projects and shared the details with a large crowd of family, friends and staff who had gathered to view the dozens of items, which included bird feeders, a dog feeder, a floor mat, wall art, a light display, yard art, a bank, Foosball table, tote bag and more.
“It helps the students realize they can use items considered trash to make new and useful things,” fourth-grade teacher Val Peterson said.
This successful annual project incorporates elements from the social studies, science, English and writing curriculum as the students have to be able to explain and write about their creations and the work involved.
“Every year the students surprise me with something new. They’re always so creative,” Peterson said.
For his framed wall art, student Jaxon Weger used a variety of bottle caps collected from several local establishments to create an eye-catching and accurate replica of the Chicago Cubs logo.
“There’s so much pollution, it’s going to be bad for all of us. The Earth isn’t healthy, and we need to do something to help it,” he said.
The Trash to Treasure Expo also encourages students to continue with other recycling and repurposing projects.
“They see what their friends have made, and a lot of them go on to make each other’s projects afterwards for themselves. They always have a lot of fun with this project,” Peterson said.
Student Miley Dolder used old garden hoses and cable ties to construct an appealing and durable floor mat. The project caught the eye of many adults who appreciated the idea since every household likely has an old hose or two lying around.
“I liked using my imagination with this project. This was an important assignment because there’s so much pollution everywhere,” she said.
Fourth-grade teacher Debbie Ward said she enjoys seeing the creativity students use with their projects.
She added the lesson also teaches them the importance of planning, time management and, of course, to be environmentally friendly, saying, “This is their world, and they need to know they can make an impact towards making it a better place.”