During the past two academic years, RPCS students have been collecting plastic waste and plastic bottles in order to create and build a bottle brick bench – the second one to be built in the state of Maryland. Martha Barss, Environmental Education and Sustainability Coordinator, along with the 4th and 5th Grades have been directing the school-wide project which culminated in the actual bench build in May.
In courses that included Sustainable Design and Engineering – a senior science elective – French, Arabic, Russian, AP Art History, and History, students from Preschool to 12th Grade were completing bottle bench activities that were integrated into the curriculum through science, art and math, language arts, storytelling and social studies. Organizing a sustainable community action project on campus helped our students learn about the waste stream, increasing upcycling and repurposing, using local materials and life cycle analysis.
Working with the help of the Harvest Collective whose mission is to educate and provide programs that empower students to develop a deeper connection to their food, community, health, and habitat, the entire RPCS community has been involved in the planning and building of this sustainable structure. The “bricks,” made of plastic non-biodegradable bottles which are filled with food wrapper waste, are surprisingly very strong. The bricks, along with locally harvested clay soil, cob, earth bags and a bamboo frame, were used to construct the earthen bench which is covered by a shelter to provide another outdoor classroom space.
Toby Rivkin, Upper School ceramics teacher and experienced community art organizer, helped direct students in the design and construction of mosaics that decorate the bench. The resulting community art project is simply beautiful and has brought the School community together as multi-aged groups of students and adults worked side by side to build and decorate the bottle brick bench.