Archive for Thursday, April 20, 2000

One million Tabs

April 20, 2000

DeSoto students have been collecting pop tabs for so long, it may be a tough habit to break.

Less than three years ago, elementary school students in the DeSoto School District began their collection. Last month the students collected their millionth pop tab.

The tabs were loaded into Dan Neuenswander's truck Friday afternoon and cashed in at a Kansas City, Mo., recycling plant. The money - about $700 - was donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charities. The donation was a nice ending to the project, but it wasn't the reason for it.

Woodsonia Elementary counselor Connie Neuenswander said the point of the project was purely educational.

The first lesson plan was to show students what a million of something looked like.

"Most people have never seen a million of anything," she said. "This was a good way to show them just how much a million is."

Then the students put their math skills to work. They began stringing the tabs together, 100 at a time, and hanging them from the ceiling. When the collection got too large to hang, they put them in two-liter bottles.

"We figured out that the bottles could hold about 2,000 tabs," Neuenswander said. "Then we found out about the barrels."

The barrels held about 200,000 tabs, so the students knew they needed to fill five, she said.

The students reached that goal last month with 12 two-liter bottles full of tabs to spare.

The barrels became a fixture in the hallways of the district's elementary schools, and the temptation to end the project was great at times, Neuenswander said. Teachers resisted the urge to turn the tabs in before reaching the million mark because quitting would go against one of the district's most basic principles, she said.

"Perseverance is one thing we really stress with the kids, so I think it was important for them to finish what they started," she said. "We also try to teach the kids personal responsibility and this project has shown them the importance of recycling. They've had to do it for so long, it's just become second nature to them."

Many of the students who began the project are now in middle school and have proven they learned their lessons well.

"A lot of them would still collect the tabs and send them to school with their younger brothers or sisters," Neuenswander said. "The kids have really dedicated themselves to this and gotten their friends and family members involved. Parents would bring them home from work and the kids would collect them from just about everyone they knew."

Woodsonia Elementary School Principal Gaye Howorth said she will be happy to see the barrels go, but breaking the habit of saving the tabs may be difficult for the teachers as well.

"We're so used to saving them, I don't know what we're going to do now," she said. "Connie really kept us on track. Every time someone would open a can, she would remind them to pull the tab off."

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