The Champion Theme Middle School

kgspotlights_championmsOur 2016 Carton 2 Garden Grand Prize winner, Champion Theme Middle School in Stone Mountain, Georgia, is indeed the home of champions! Led by the Science Club Chargers team, their multi-faceted project involved the entire school from teachers and students to custodians and cafeteria staff, as well as the many community members and parents who help facilitate learning at the school. The student-driven project initiated changes that increased environmental stewardship and sustainability practices across the entire school community, along with promoting gardening skills and knowledge of good nutrition.

Carton collection began with a school-wide PA announcement composed and delivered by students. Collection bins were set up in science classrooms and the cafeteria; each day, Science Club students washed, dried, and counted the accumulating cartons. Their grand total was 1065 cartons!

Rather than one big project, Champion Theme’s entry comprised a number of smaller projects that involved over 150 students in grades 6-8 and included outreach to 25 elementary school students as well. The projects touched on many areas of the curriculum, including science, math, social studies, engineering design practices and language arts. As one student noted of these curricular connections, “This involved STEM because we had to design, and use problem-solving skills and critical thinking.”

Students painted cartons with non-toxic paint and then planted in them after filling them with the school’s “worm-made” vermicompost. Some were even used to create beautiful planters that were given to parents and grandparents as Christmas presents and used as table decorations for the Science Club's end of semester party.

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Sixth grade students learned about the water cycle and soil science to complement their Earth Science studies. Students created their own rain gauges from recycled cartons to place in the school garden or to use in their own home gardens.

Seventh grade Life Science students’ learning was enhanced with the study of plants, composting, body systems, nutrition, and food webs. They participated in a composting and planting lesson presented by one of their peers who is also a Science Club member. Then they planted seeds of kale and carrots in recycled carton pots to take home with them. The students were excited at the prospect of having plants that they would be able to eat. The students also got to sample kale smoothies, which they helped make. For many students this was the first time they had tried kale!

Eighth graders delved into recycling, sustainability, and the transfer of energy and were very impressed with how the food scraps collected from the school cafeteria had turned into "compost," thanks to actions of the red wrigglers in the school’s vermicomposting setup! The students also planted kale, lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes in their recycled cartons. Having heard the health benefits of kale, many of the students said they planned to ask their parents to purchase this nutritious green to serve at home from now on.

Student members of the Science Club also visited Wynbrooke Elementary School and taught a lesson on recycling, plants, and habitats. The grade schoolers were excited to learn about planting, seeds, and healthy eating habits from the older students and planted kale, tomatoes, and cabbage seeds in recycled milk cartons to take home and care for.

Finally, Science Club students planted seeds in cartons and made bird feeders from cartons to take to the nearby Stone Mountain Community Garden, which provides fresh fruits and vegetables to needy families in the neighborhood. This service learning opportunity for Champion Theme Middle School students has been ongoing for 4 years.

Says Team Leader Sureka Taylor, “What inspired us at the beginning was to create a climate of environmental stewardship along with eating healthy. Our project did not include a ‘big’ creation but instead we created living and breathing Environmental Stewards! The competition has ended, but at our school we will continue to recycle cartons, cafeteria food scraps, and plant. We have achieved our goal of showing how easy it is to make a big change a carton at a time!” We applaud the creativity, enthusiasm, inclusiveness, and dedication of all the participants in this award–winning project.