Students at Soldotna Montessori Charter School are no strangers to community service.
For the entire third quarter of each year, students donate at least one day a week to community service, dedicating their time to a specific cause. This year, the sixth grade students decided to tackle the concern of plastic bags in conjunction with the Zero-Waste Initiative, sponsored by a grant with the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Terri Carter, a teacher at Montessori Charter.
“The statistics of plastic bags are horrifying. In an attempt to counteract that, (the sixth graders) decided they were going to work to minimize the use of single use plastic bags,” Carter said. “They did a lot of research and came up with a plan to collect T-shirts and to turn them into reusable bags.”
The students organized a campaign to collect shirts from the community and surrounding businesses. They received donations from Bargain Basement in Kenai and Bishop’s Attic in Soldotna. All together, they collected over 700 shirts, Carter said.
“It’s really powerful to see, that when kids that have a vision and motivation are given an opportunity, to see what they come up with,” she said. “It’ was their plan, their vision and they implemented it.”
They used the donated shirts to create reusable, cloth grocery bags. At the start, the students found that they could make about seven shirts during each community service session. They did the math and were worried that it would take the 25 sixth grade students too long to transform all of the shirts into bags.
“Eventually, one of the students realized that if we did an assembly line, it would move faster,” Carter explained. “They invented an assembly line and got mass production going so we were able to complete all the bags quickly.”
A majority of the bags were claimed by members of the Montessori Charter School community, but the remaining bags were donated to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank and the United Methodist Food Bank.
“The big lesson in all of this is that, for there to be an impact, it will take a significant effort on the part of all of us,” Carter said. “But, that isn’t to diminish the fact that each of us can make a difference. It’s an exciting moment for the kids when they see someone using their bag and making a difference.”
Kat Sorensen can be reached at email@example.com