Do you ever wonder where your creativity went? I am constantly amazed by the ideas children come up with when faced with a creative challenge. We adults rarely seem as clever.

I have a lot of theories on why we appear to think less creatively as we grow into adulthood. I could share these with you. Or I could tell you what one teacher in Pennsylvania is doing to inspire and reward creativity in her students. She sets a great example for educators across the country who hope to cultivate creativity in their students and empower children to take action on issues and challenges that matter to them.

This year Cynthia Kravatz and her students at Coebourn Elementary School in Brookhaven, Pennsylvania focused on “Going Green. ” They used KidsGardening’s Carton 2 Garden Contest to create a tangible product to demonstrate what they were learning and share their new knowledge with family and friends. For this, they were awarded with the Contest’s Sustainability Award.

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. Close to two hundred bee boxes were spread throughout the community in garden areas. Cynthia says, “Students were eager to hang them in their gardens after learning that Mason males never sting and Mason females only sting if threatened or squished.”

The Mason Bee house project is a STEM project. Students started by examining a purchased bamboo Mason Bee house. Later they watched video clips about Mason Bees and did further research about the life cycle and habits of these bees. Groups designed prototypes using only cartons. They shared their prototypes with some local gardeners who have certified pollinator gardens and experience building wooden Mason Bee houses. From them, the students learned that their prototype houses were not deep enough and needed an overhang to protect the bees from weather. Students used this information to redesign a bee house that better fit the needs of Mason Bees.

Through this project, 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 problems and gave them the chance to positively impact their environment.

“Pollinators have become a buzz topic in the gardening world,” says Cynthia. “I feel our problem-solving work with recycled cartons connects students to real world needs far beyond memorizing the parts of a flower.”

About the Carton 2 Garden Contest

Evergreen Packaging and KidsGardening are proud to host the national Carton 2 Garden Contest! Open to public and private schools, contest winners are be selected based on their implementation of an innovative garden creation featuring creative and sustainable uses for repurposed milk and juice cartons.

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