By Melanie Williamson
If you haven’t driven by Sailorway Middle School recently, be sure to swing by the front entrance to get a look at one of the school’s three new recyclable benches made possible by Vermilion Girl Scout Troop 51164. The troop is comprised of Kayla Bartlebaugh, Hannah Piwinski, Hannah Welch, Sydney Stacklin, and Elicia McCallister, and they are led by Jennifer Bartlebaugh and Sandy Piwinski.
To earn the Silver Award in Girl Scouts, the troop must come up with and complete an in-depth project that benefits the community and demonstrates clear leadership skills. The troop worked with Green Tree Plastics-ABC Partnership in Evansville, IN, which makes park benches and tables out of recycled plastic bottle caps.
The ABC Program is designed specifically to work directly with children to teach them about caring for the earth and green living. As part of the program, groups must be accepted, which includes a pledge that the children will be directly involved in the collecting, sorting, and weighing of the bottle caps.
The girls collected over 1157 lbs. of plastic caps that were melted into recyclable lumber to make three park benches that were donated to Vermilion Middle School where the girls attend. Benches were placed at each of the playgrounds and in front of the school for students who are waiting to be picked up.
Bartlebaugh actually heard about Green Tree Plastics and what they did while at a meeting, and offered it as a suggestion while the girls were brainstorming project ideas. They all liked the idea, so the girls voted and it became their project.
According to Bartlebaugh, took them just about a year to collect enough bottle caps to make the benches. They received a great amount of local cooperation as the school, churches, the YMCA, and many friends and family helped collect and donate bottle caps to the project.
As part of the planning, the girls met with the principal at Sailorway to present their idea. They decided they wanted the benches to go at Sailorway because they are all students there, and they knew there was a need. Specifically, there was nowhere for students to sit by the playgrounds or in the front of the school when waiting for their parents. The girls choose the number of benches they wanted to make and the color for the benches.
They kicked off their bottle cap collection last fall after planning a fundraiser for the art program at Sailorway. The girls worked with their art teacher to plan and host a family paint night in order to raise money. They then used the money to buy art supplies for the art classroom.
As they collected bottle caps, they brought them to Bartlebaugh’s house where the caps were weighed and stored in their garage. When they finally had enough, the girls helped to load the bottle caps into a trailer, and Bartlebaugh and her husband drove them to Indiana where they were made into recyclable lumber.
Throughout the project, Bartlebaugh shared that the girls learned a great deal about giving back, green living, and communication skills. It was a big day when they were able to see the finished benches, and they fully realized that even something as small and simple as a plastic bottle cap can be used in a new and different way.
These benches are designed to last ten years, and cost a total of $630. Troop 51164 is looking for sponsorship from the Vermilion community or local businesses to off-set the cost of the benches. If interested, please call 440-315-2187.