TU’s Camp STEMtastic reaches this year’s bottle caps goal

Submitted photoParticipating in the final weigh-in for the Bottle Caps to Benches project are (from left) April Penton, Co-coordinator of Camp STEMtastic; Ashley Lanatta, Camp STEMtastic facilitator and MacIntyre Park Middle School teacher; Carter Vann, TU Student; Dr. Gale Neal, TU Assistant Professor of Education; Brianna Singleton, a Camp STEMtastic participant from the Thomasville High School Scholars Academy; Heath Dawson with First Commerce Credit Union, a Camp STEMtastic supporter; Raushan Jones of WILO, a Camp STEMtastic supporter; Bre'Yannah Frazier, a Camp STEMtastic participant from the Thomasville High School Scholars Academy; Semira Davis, a Camp STEMtastic participant from the Thomasville High School Scholars Academy; Deldrick Hill, a Camp STEMtastic participant from the Thomasville High School Scholars Academy; Jennifer Hamilton, Co-coordinator of Camp STEMtastic; Parker Folsom, a volunteer from the Thomasville High School Scholars Academy; Faith Ridley a Camp STEMtastic participant from the Thomasville High School Scholars Academy; Scott Sweeting Science coordinator for Thomas County Schools; and Richard Faucett, a teacher from Thomas County Central High School. 

When the students and coordinators of Camp STEMtastic began the Bottle Caps to Benches project a year ago, they knew their goal would be challenging. They needed to collect enough bottle caps to be recycled and the $300 fee for a bench in each school in the Thomasville City School System and the Thomas County System. Each bench requires 200 pounds of bottle caps. Known as “buddy benches,” students who sit on one of the benches at school are looking for a friend. Other students recognize their need and help that student.

Over the course of the past year, Camp STEMtastic participants have gathered almost weekly to sort the bottle caps that have come in from not just the Thomasville area, but from across the country. Thomasville resident Kimberly Pittman Moore collected bottle caps from her church, from a friend who works at Disney World and from the inmates where she works at the Florida Correctional Institution in Tallahassee. Kathy Surles from Douglas, Georgia, read about the effort and collected bottle caps from church and friends to send to TU.

Students in TU’s Sculpture class created two collection sculptures used in Smith-Bonvillian Hall and in the campus Center. TU employees collected bottle caps and filled jars and bins across campus. Brightly colored child-designed boxes arrived in the mail from other bottle cap collectors.

Camp STEMtastic sponsors WILO and First Commerce Credit Union helped collect bottle caps at their businesses. Other organizations became involved, including Keep Thomas County Beautiful, Daughters of the American Revolution, the Thomasville Kiwanis Club and the Thomasville Rotary Club.

Each of the schools in the Thomas County School System and Thomasville City School System had students, teachers and administrators who gathered bottle caps for their school’s bench. As a result, a total of 10 schools will receive a six-foot bench in the color of their choice.

Because the Thomas County schools exceeded their goals, that school system offered to provide the bottle caps to make a bench for TU and a bench for Rotary International, which is a Camp STEMtastic sponsor.

Camp STEMtastic participants will travel to the factory in the Indiana this summer and learn more about how the bottle caps are recycled into benches. Collections for the next year’s Camp STEMtastic group involved in the project will begin with the start of the 2019-20 school year.