Great State: Milk Carton Reef

Great State
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MUSTANG, OKLAHOMA -- Before we get to the prize itself, we should show you what won the prize for Mustang Elementary.

Watch the video and you'll swim through a collection of just under 6,500 school issue milk cartons saved from the trash by students.

"We had to collect them and wash them all together," says one 4th grade student." "The worst part was washing them," says another 4th grader. "It was totally gross," agrees her friend.

Last fall art teacher Kent Hathaway got an email from the school kitchen staff about a contest.

The company that makes the little cartons, Evergreen Packaging, challenged schools nationwide to create a habitat out of them.

Hathaway's kids started brainstorming. "So we thought, let's do something different," he says. "We thought, lets go up in the sky, or underground, or underwater."

The contest called for a minimum of 100 containers. Mustang Elementary kids collected ten thousand of them.

The whole school pitched in to clean them and build their coral reef.

Hathaway explains, "So 5th graders figured out how to make everything. I taught the fish lesson to 4th graders, and we taught that to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade."

150 schools entered the Made By Milk Carton Construction Contest, including Jr. highs, and high schools.

Mustang Elementary came out on top, winning the grand prize of $5,000.

Contest planners were more than impressed with the school's 375 square foot lunchroom display.

"We only asked them to make a habitat," said one coordinator. "And they made an entire ecosystem."

Students at this school are used to recycling old things to make new things.

Examples of the art teacher's projects hang all over the school.

The milk carton reef now tops the list.

100 percent from 2 percent. That's as good as recycling gets.

The school received a check Friday morning at assembly.

Hathaway says students are hoping to purchase some new, digital art tablets with the prize money.

Plans for the next milk carton contest are also underway.

The Spring challenge is to build some type of monument with them.

For more information on the contest go to

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