THORNVILLE – Sheridan High School will be receiving six brand new four-foot benches and two hexagonal tables for a future outdoor learning area, courtesy of Intervention Specialist Beth Wickerham’s 9-12 students. All it took was 1,200 pounds of plastic bottle caps, two years of collecting, and selling $2,380 worth of lollipops at lunchtime. A special feature of the new hexagon-shaped tables will allow for wheelchair access.
On a very cold Feb. 8 Monday morning, Ms Wickerham’s students and teacher’s aide Heather Hynus carted, carried, and dragged 40 bags of hand-washed plastic bottle caps to a waiting trailer behind the high school. There Paul Miller and his wife Kim, along with Terry Lott, helped load the bags into the trailer that they would haul to Wadsworth, Ohio to a company called Plastics R Unique, Inc. Kim Miller is a teacher’s aide in Beth Wickerham’s class.
Plastics R Unique sponsors something called the ABC Program, specifically designed for school children to recycle plastic bottle caps. Called a “tool in the hands of teachers,” the program is designed to teach children about caring for the earth and green living.
While the 1,200 pounds of bottle caps provide the materials for the recycled benches and tables, the $2,380 represents the labor costs for Plastics R Unique to convert the caps into outdoor furniture.
“We sold suckers for 50 cents apiece to raise the money we needed for the benches and tables,” said Wickerham.
Collecting the caps was the easy part of the project, according to the dedicated teacher. The caps had to be washed after being sorted. Plastic caps that contained any metal parts had to be discarded. While her students did the bulk of the work, Wickerham reported that a class at Liberty Union High School in Fairfield County also made a contribution to her classroom effort.
“All the boxes full of bottle caps were given to us by a class at Liberty Union that also did a cap recycling project,” explained Wickerham. Another highlight of the effort was the $1,600 in sucker sales the class brought in during the week of Autism Awareness in April of 2019.
While COVID-19 has put a halt to many school activities, Wickerham is hopeful a groundbreaking ceremony for the new outdoor park at Sheridan High School will take place this spring.
Two of the new benches will have personalized engraving on the boards. One bench will be engraved with, “Donated by Ms. Wickerham’s Class.” The other special engraving will honor Christian Stinson. Christian is a former student in Ms. Wickerham’s class who participated in the bottle cap-recycling project. He passed away last summer.
Students currently in Ms. Wickerham’s class who worked on the bottle cap project are Travis Pittman, Tom Moore, Kadynce Lucas, Chris O’Brien, A.J. Nelson, Austin Nicklis, Halley Fraunfelter, Michael Scarberry, Raven Yuchasz, and Zain Rhodes. Graduates in addition to Christian Stinson who participated are Christian Rohozen and Jeremiah Danison.
Two former teacher aides were also instrumental in the success of this project. Lora Waller and Debbie Richards participated in the collection of the bottle caps. The cap collection took place in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years while the bagging and trip to the recycling plant was a project for the students in the current 2020-21 school year.