Evergreen Packaging, a global leader in creating fiber-based packaging solutions, today announced the winners of the third annual Carton 2 Garden™ contest. The competition, administered by KidsGardening, gives students across the country a hands-on experience in repurposing empty milk and juice cartons to build or enhance their school gardens. This project promotes life skills such as creativity, leadership, and teamwork, along with teaching students about healthy eating and the eco-friendly benefits of cartons. This year’s Carton 2 Garden winner categories include a $5,000 grand prize, three $2,500 specialty prizes, and ten $1,000 grade level prizes. The three specialty prize winners are awarded for their efforts in the following areas: STEM, the best use of science, technology, engineering, and math lessons in their project; Sustainability, the best demonstration of sustainable practices in their garden creation; and Health and Nutrition, the best incorporation of lessons on wellness in their project. Overall, the contest awarded prizes valued at $22,500 to 14 winning schools around the country.
The grand prize and specialty prize winners of the contest are as follows:
- Grand Prize Winner – Lemon Avenue Elementary School (La Mesa, California) – The grand prize entry was an innovative and ambitious effort to bolster the threatened Monarch butterfly population. Lemon Avenue’s “Saving the Monarchs” project involved recycling, composting, planting, creating an official ‘Monarch Waystation’ on school grounds, conducting community outreach activities, and providing milkweed plants – the butterflies’ source of food – throughout the local community for distribution and planting. By introducing STEM, sustainability, and health educational content through creative hands-on lessons and activities, this inspirational project made a lasting impact on the attitudes and behaviors of participating students, educators and the local community, giving them a new appreciation of the butterflies and the environment as a whole.
- STEM Winner– Bethel Elementary School (Midland, North Carolina) – Students investigated hydroponic growing systems, which use water instead of soil to grow plants, and devised their own, aptly named “Bethelponics.” Hydroponic gardens are growing in popularity because of their potential to increase water efficiency and ability to grow crops in urban, land-scarce areas. Students were given the opportunity to explore and truly understand the science behind this technology while also nurturing their plants. At the completion of the project, students donated their hydroponically grown lettuce harvest to a local food bank.
- Sustainability Winner – Coebourn Elementary School (Brookhaven, Pennsylvania) – With a focus on pollinators and a desire to help support declining pollinator populations, students created Mason Bee houses from repurposed milk cartons for their schoolyard and community members. Through their “Save the Pollinators” garden, students learned very important lessons about biodiversity and sustainable practices. Participation in this project allowed students to hone their problem-solving skills on real world issues and gave them the chance to create a tangible product to positively impact their environment and share with their local community.
- Health and Nutrition Winner – PS 135Q The Bellaire School (Queens Village, New York) – This entry grew out of the students’ desire to send a message of love and peace. For the “Love Grows with Peace” garden, students designed a heart-shaped, carton-based garden and grew wheatgrass to learn more about making healthy food choices. Each step of the students’ journey was carefully incorporated into the curriculum, from using math to design the garden to applying hands-on science learning to carefully tracking the growth while studying germination and experimenting with watering techniques to maximize efficiency. After the project concluded, the students made nutritious wheatgrass smoothies and the remaining cartons of wheatgrass were donated to a local animal shelter for the animals to enjoy. Students not only learned how to take care of themselves through the consumption of healthy foods; the project also grew their confidence and pride benefiting their social and emotional growth.
“Students from across the country learned about sustainability, STEM applications and growing techniques while repurposing cartons in the Carton 2 Garden™ Contest,” said Katie Simmons, marketing manager for Evergreen Packaging. “As the contest grows, it’s incredibly rewarding to see students participate in sustainable practices, conservation and community involvement while building their carton garden projects.”
Nearly 170 entries were judged on specific criteria, such as adherence to contest rules, creativity, use of sustainable materials and visual representation. Classroom groups were required to collect at least 100 cartons of any size, including cartons from the school cafeteria or from home. Materials other than cartons were allowed in the creations, but renewable, natural materials were strongly encouraged. All entries were judged by the education specialists at KidsGardening.
“The Carton 2 Garden™ Contest really brings out the best in students and their educators in terms of creativity, resourcefulness, and community spirit. It is such a pleasure to read through the thoughtful applications submitted to us,” says Emily Shipman, executive director of KidsGardening. “Kudos to Evergreen Packaging for their commitment to supporting the development of the next generation of environmental stewards.”
Ten additional schools were recognized for their carton garden creations, including:
Elementary School Winners (K-5)
- Bel-Aire Elementary School, Miami, Florida – “STEaM Garden Machine”
- Guion Creek Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana – “Carton2Garden STEM Investigation”
- Estabrook Learning Community, Ypsilanti, Michigan – “The Estabrook Garden Nook”
- Jefferson Elementary School, New Ulm, Minnesota – “Fresh Air Garden”
- Fern Hill Elementary, West Chester, Pennsylvania – “Seeds That Feed”
Middle/High School Winners (6-12)
- Thomas Starr King Middle School, Los Angeles, California – “High-Speed Compost”
- Medea Creek Middle School, Oak Park, California – “New Roofs for Composting Worms”
- Gardiner Area High School, Gardiner, Maine – “Winter Window Garden”
- Kiski Area High School, Leechburg, Pennsylvania – “Sustainability Lean-To”
- Spring Mills High School, Martinsburg, West Virginia – “Vermicomposting Feeders”
For more information on the contest, and to see other ways Evergreen Packaging is promoting eco-friendly habits to school-age children, visit www.carton2garden.com.