It’s taken more than a decade, but the kids at Columbia Crest A-STEM Academy in Ashford have finally made it to the 1 million mark.
Since 2004, students in teacher Kathy Johnstone’s classes have been collecting and counting bread tabs — the plastic closure devices that come on loaves of bread and other foods. She started the project as a way to help kids understand what the big number looks like. Donations came from students and their families, neighbors and businesses.
After The News Tribune featured the class project in several stories, the pace of donations quickened, Johnstone said. Now, she wants to let everyone know that they can stop sending the little plastic tokens to her school.
Pieces of the collection are headed to another teacher, a food bank and a county agency.
“It is weird,” Johnstone said. “I don't know what to do. I have had this goal for so long. Now that I have accomplished it, I don't know what to do.”
There was a celebratory all-school assembly Thursday, where the final 100,000 tabs were dumped into a big plastic tub. Now that there are 10 of those tubs, Columbia Crest kids were finally able to see what the big number looks like.
So what happens to the collection now?
Later in the school year, Johnstone and students are planning a big party at which kids can make mosaic art or jewelry with the bread tabs and play games using them.
Over the years, students have counted the tabs, separating them into groups of 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000 and 100,000, with different containers for each milestone.
I don't know what to do. I have had this goal for so long.
Teacher Kathy Johnstone
Johnstone said one Columbia Crest teacher wants to keep a set of the containers to help her kids learn about mathematical place value. Pierce County Waste Management has asked for a 100,000-tab container to help illustrate how small bits of plastic can add up when they enter the waste stream instead of being recycled. And a food bank wants some to use for repackaging food items.
Even with all those requests, there should be plenty to go around.