The plastic bottles were turned into colorful curlicues. The plastic cups became misshapen, but bright and pretty blobs. The packing peanuts were transformed into a draping, white winter garland.
The Eastside Elementary School K-Kids, the elementary school-level group associated with the Kiwanis Club, have associated their name with recycling and care for the environment. They won the Hernando County School Board 2010-11 Excellence in Recycling award.
It was fitting, then, that the group developed a Christmas project that carried that theme. Through the efforts of the Eastside K-Kids Kiwanis adviser Bill Rodriguez, a giant 12-foot tree that touched the stage rafters was donated by Walmart; then it was decorated with ornaments made of recycled goods.
The students, known as the Green Team, made the ornaments out of computer disks, old Christmas cards, pine cones and fabric pieces.
Fifth-grader Kate Telford, 10, is the K-Kids president. Fourth-grader Starla Genberg, 10, is the vice president. They explained how some of the ornaments were made.
The pine cones, Kate explained, were squirted with glue and had sparkles sprinkled on them.
The plastic cups were colored with markers and heated by art teacher Stephanie Hembd (at 250 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes, a process, Hembd said, was determined by trial and error).
As for the curlicues made from bottles, "We painted them and cut them into spirals," Kate said.
"Everything we used was either donated or found," Starla said.
There are more than 60 students in K-Kids, and many were on hand for the after-school tree decorating. They worked in shifts, some placing ornaments on the tree, while others colored Christmas cards destined for a local retirement home.
"The kids have just been so excited," said K-Kids adviser and teacher Cindy Kinner, who is assisted by fifth-grade teacher Jane Langenberg.
Since the tree is on the stage in the school cafeteria, all of the students will see it, and Kate and Starla hope they will learn from it.
"I hope they'll learn that if you recycle, the world can be a better place for you, and you can have a better place to live," Kate said.
"I hope that they learn that recycling is important and you should always do it instead of throwing it all away," Starla said.