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2020 Carton 2 Garden Contest Winners

Child in a turquoise mask is holding two milk cartons over a bucket of soil
A student in the Burlington School District Child Care Program

Evergreen Packaging and KidsGardening were excited to announce the winners of the 2020 Carton2Garden contest last month. Over the years the contest, which first started in 2015, has helped promote life skills such as creativity, leadership, and teamwork by inviting students to work together to build or enhance their school gardens with repurposed milk and juice cartons. 

Speciality Prize Winners

Grand Prize: Thomaston Grammar School (Thomaston, ME)
The students at Thomaston Grammar used cartons to complete a diverse array of garden projects united by a theme of environmental consciousness—”sustainability, conservation, and environmental stewardship are common language in our classroom” notes 5th grade teacher Lynn Snow, “The contest was a perfect fit. The students embraced it with much energy and enthusiasm!”

Students collected over 1,000 milk and juice cartons as well as cereal and yogurt containers after school breakfasts and worked with food service staff to rinse and sanitize containers during recess. Armed with a plethora of materials they began their Carton 2 Garden project by launching a carton-based hydroponic garden in a repurposed indoor greenhouse with LED grow lights to produce edibles including lettuce, spinach and herbs. With their first component of their project completed, Thomaston Grammar School students turned to the creation of bee hotels for a new orchard that they hope to add to the school property in the spring. Finally, they applied STEM concepts to design and build assorted large scale containers with the remainder of their cartons. These creations included a giant milk carton that could be used to collect recyclables in the cafeteria and baskets to help with the storage of garden supplies. “These were ideas that came to life via discussion, trial and effort, and most importantly perseverance” shares Lynn about the project process. “Kids quickly realized that the engineering process is not linear. ‘Back to the drawing’ board happened multiple times before the final product was what we wanted it to be.” Watch a video of about Thomaston Grammar School’s project.

STEM Specialty Award: New Mountain Hill Elementary (Fortson, GA)
A multi-grade level entry, all the students at new Mountain Hill Elementary worked closely together to plan, construct and plant a new pollinator garden that was shaped like a beehive. Students explored the many ways pollinators are important in our world and our food systems.

Environmental Stewardship Specialty Award: Lucy T. Davis Elementary School (Florence, SC)
Students at Lucy Davis Elementary completed an intensive study of bees and the importance of pollinators in our environment. They created their own “Air Bee N Bee” which will be part of a bee friendly habitat and native plant garden.

Health and Nutrition Specialty Award: Virgil Mills Elementary (Ellenton, FL)
The kindergarten class at Virgil Mills Elementary combined their garden activities with mindfulness lessons to teach students how to “Be Brave, Be Patient, Be Focused and Be Positive.” Incorporating a focus on emotional, mental and physical health students learned that just like the plants in their garden, they were “Born to Blossom.”

Art in the Garden Specialty Award: Dunham Elementary School (Petaluma, CA)
Students at Dunham Elementary created an expansive carton-based mosaic spotlighting pollinators along with an educational display to bring attention to the importance of pollinators with students and their community.

Elementary Award Winners

Burlington School District Child Care Program/C.P. Smith Elementary (Burlington, VT)
Adapting to new in-person learning restrictions this fall, the students participating in the Burlington School District Child Care Program at C.P. Smith Elementary used garden- and nature-based activities to help engage students and alleviate the stress of uncertain times. “Because our world is in a constant state of flux and uncertainty, our students’ goal was to create a collaborative indoor tranquility garden where they could relax, unwind, and enjoy while also creating something that could shift and change if/as needed” says BSD Child Care Program Site Director Jennifer Trapani.

Students used cartons in a variety of science, engineering, math, and art activities to create a mobile botanical oasis. Cartons were decorated, planted with seedlings and re-rooted cuttings, then hung from fallen branches found on the school property to create hanging planters. To complement their new indoor garden space, younger students also made stained glass tissue paper designs for nearby windows and crafted clay figurines to “live” with their plants. As students helped bring their traquanity garden to life “they were introduced to a number of horticultural topics such as parts of the plant, what plants need to grow, what plants give us, and how we can be good stewards” shares Jennifer. “They were also introduced to basic principles of engineering as they worked together to brainstorm, design, and implement a project while delegating and sharing tasks remotely with other pods in the building.” You can learn more about their project by watching their contest video.

M. Miano Elementary (Los Banos, CA)
The students at Miano Elementary utilized cartons to support the creation of their Sunrise Nursery designed to grow drought tolerant plants and teach their community about the importance of water saving landscapes.

North Beach Elementary School (Miami Beach, FL)
A multi-faceted project, North Beach Elementary School used their Carton 2 Garden Project to introduce students to plant life cycles, bring attention to the problem of waste in our food system, and highlight the importance of pollinators while beautifying school grounds. The main goal of the project was to create more environmentally friendly children who love and care for our planet Earth.

Pelican Island Elementary (Sebastian, FL)
Pelican Island Elementary used the Carton 2 Garden Contest to reinvigorate students’ interest in their Golden Spoon Green Line Initiative that strives to reduce waste in their cafeteria. They used the Contest to help promote the concept of “Earth Day Every Day!”

North Elementary School (Morgantown, WV)
Students at North Elementary practiced math and engineering skills as they designed a pyramid of basil plants. They used these sensory engaging edibles to also explore nutrition and food system topics. Their basil harvest was so successful, it was enjoyed by students, families and their community in local restaurants.

Middle/High School Award Winners

Saint Mary's Catholic School (Richmond, VA)
This fall, Saint Mary’s Catholic School students planted pine seedlings in cartons to sell as part of a fundraiser with proceeds going towards a food kitchen in their home town of Richmond, Virginia. “Our former school chef, Chef Gene, helps run a mobile food kitchen for The Salvation Army” shares Jennifer Janus, a parent volunteer at St. Mary’s. “He’s used some of our school garden grown butter squash in meals distributed to people experiencing homelessness and we decided we wanted to do more for the people Chef Gene serves.”

From the outset, forging deeper connections with their community was central to the project. After students from both Girl Scout Troop 5163 and the school garden club collected approximately 150 cartons, they worked with a community member and former school alumna to host a carton decorating workshop on Zoom. And once their containers were ready, students partnered with a local arborist to plant pine seedlings donated from the Virginia Department of Forest. Their finished products were made available for pre-order online and for purchase during school pickup times—by the time they submitted their Carton 2 Garden entry students had already sold nearly half of their decorated cartons and seedlings. “We learned about planning, creating an overview and a timeline for how to execute the different steps that made this project come together. We talked about how our work would help people experiencing homeless in our city have access to better and more nutritious meals. Our project opens students’ eyes and mides to the possibility of reusing items and objects they hadn’t considered before,” summarizes Jennifer. “Most importantly, the students and community members who worked with us on this project experienced an overwhelming sense of community as we all worked toward a common goal”

Watch a video created by Saint Mary’s Catholic School students about their Carton 2 Garden Project. 

Teague Middle School (Altamonte Springs, FL)
A student-led project from start to finish, Teague Middle School created a living tree of seedlings which will later be used to stock butterfly gardens on their campus.

New Palestine Intermediate School (New Palestine, IN)
Garden club students at New Palestine Intermediate designed and built a rainwater catchment system, to promote sustainable water use in their garden.

Denham Springs High School (Denham Springs, LA)
Sharing seedlings grown in repurposed cartons and tin cans, the Carton 2 Garden Project completed by the life skills classes at Denham Springs High School fostered inclusive, social and community building opportunities. The school also used their C2G project for on campus job-training this fall as COVID has limited off campus experiences.

Eslie J. Parquette School at Sweetser (Saco, ME)
Students at Sweetser’s Eslie Parquette School grew plants in decorated cartons to sell at a spring plant sale. All proceeds from the sale were donated to a local organization that benefits adults with disabilities and the project was a way for students to feel pride in giving back to their community.

Honorable Mention

Heritage High School (Brentwood, CA)
A completely student-led effort, The Project Climate Club at Heritage High School used milk cartons to grow native oak trees to help replenish forests destroyed by the recent California Wildfires. Dedicated to only using existing resources throughout the process, they engineered creative ways to grow their seedlings using a wide diversity of repurposed materials. Their efforts included educating others about climate change and how they can help. Watch The Project Climate Club's video about their project.