Third-graders at Kelly Mill Elementary School are hoping to change the way people think about recycling, one tire at a time.
Their efforts earned them a first-place finish in the recent Siemens “We Can Change the World Challenge.”
“It just goes beyond proud,” said Principal Ron McAllister. “It’s validation that kids can do, ultimately, more than we think they can and they literally can and do change the world.
“It’s another reminder — don’t underestimate the power kids can have in today’s world.”
The contest challenged students to use math, science and language arts skills to create sustainable, reproducible environmental improvements.
Kelly Mill’s Horizon students answered the call by not only creating recycling bins for local businesses to use, but crafting the bins from old tires.
Kelly Mill, which opened in August, had “no recycling program, so we really wanted to do something a little different and think outside the box instead of just having a recycling bin,” said Laura Fedorchuk, one of two teachers who helped lead the project.
Fedorchuk said students began researching how much of a mess tires can cause. While they’re supposed to be recycled, there’s a lot of illegal tire dumping. So a group of students figured out “when you put three or four tires on top of each other, it makes a really good garbage can.”
“They went to businesses and when they saw a need, they actually wrote up proposals and persuaded the owners ... to put up a recycling bin,” she said. “All the businesses were wonderful.”
The students then painted the tires to match the theme of the various businesses. For example, a local ice skating facility got a skating themed recycling bin.
Tire recycling bins are also located at about 15 other businesses, including a restaurant, karate studio and the Cumming Aquatic Center. Fedorchuk said the students are also responsible for emptying the bins at least once a week.
“I just wish we had more kids and more time because all the businesses are saying ‘yes,’” Fedorchuk said.
As the national winners of the third-through-fifth grade Siemens challenge, the school will receive $5,000 to use for further science, technology, engineering and math initiatives.
Students who participated in the project also got a special prize pack and a discovery education assembly for the school.
Students have since upped their environmental efforts by starting to talk with local lawmakers to support bills for more recycling efforts.
“I’m just unbelievably proud of them,” McAllister said. “And they’re still pursuing those kinds of things beyond just a project or even a competition.”