Puncity seems like a nice place, it really has it all.
Just past a corn field of canned corn is the ranch, marked by a bottle of ranch dressing. A few streets down, take a left at the bottle of Caesar dressing and you’ll find Caesar’s Palace.
Just like Rome, though, Puncity wasn’t built in a day.
Tucked away in the corner of the hallways at Redoubt Elementary School, the small city started as what sixth-grader Jace O’Regan called a “pilgrim village.”
“Yeah, we started it out small, but we collected way past our goal of 1,000 pounds of food,” said fellow sixth-grader Zac Buckbee.
Oh, and unlike Rome, Puncity is constructed entirely out of non-perishable food.
Zac and Jace, along with their friend Enoch Frederickson and a handful of their classmates at Redoubt Elementary, have transformed 1,175 pounds of food into a small, walkable city as part of their “can-struction” project.
Students, teachers and community members have been donating food to the project for the past month. The final day for food donations is today, at which point canstruction will be completed and then, Puncity will cease to be. Instead, the food will find a new home at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.
“We had a goal,” said Zac. “We’ve met that goal and all the food that we collected is going to go to the food bank for those that need it. … And with all the food, us and some other students have made a villge, city type thing with all these different structures.”
The canstruction takes up an entire section of the building entrance and isn’t limited to cans. There are tins of cookies and bags of coffee, all sorts of non-perishable items.
“It’s called Puncity because we’ve been making puns all throughout it,” said Jace. “Our coffee shop has a big coffee can right in it. We have a lighthouse, with Lighthouse brand basil right on top of it.
In the past, the school has collected upward of 800 pounds of food, but this year they’ve seen a large spike in the amount of donations.
“We do this every year,” said Sharon Hale, the school’s librarian and organizer of the food drive. “I’ve always been passionate about it and we do different things each year. One year we did a grocery grab, another year we did ‘canstructions’ in individual classrooms. This year, we’re doing a big focus on STEAM and we decided to try a big one.”
STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics and the students and staff at Redoubt Elementary have adopted a hands-on learning process to focus on these skills.
Throughout the canstruction of Puncity, students have been practicing their mathematics skills by counting the donated food daily.
“We count what we pick up from everybody’s class each day and we keep track and weigh it,” Hale said. “That’s a big math component, because when we take it to the food bank on Monday, the class that collected the most food will get to take it to the food bank.”
The STEAM learning doesn’t end with Puncity’s destruction, though.
“I love hands-on learning and utilizing multiple different content areas to teach,” said Principal William Withrow. “I think it allows the kids a voice and a choice, without stifling their creativity.”
Throughout the year, teachers focus on schoolwide STEAM projects that every student from kindergarten to sixth grade participates in.
“You get vastly different outcomes,” Withrow said. “We’ve found, too, that kids now are willing to try things new, are willing to see that they have failed at something and also figure out what plan b is. I think that’s a huge life skill.”
With Puncity, Zac, Jace and their classmates found that, because of an influx of donations and corny jokes, their plan b was urban sprawl.