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Vol. LXV, No. 15
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
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Community Park School Students Are Finalists In National Eco-Product Design Competition

Ellen Gilbert

Before we proceed, you need to drop everything and vote. No, we’re not talking about the school budget, Borough Council mayor, Township Committee candidates, or prospective School Board members. We’re talking about Community Park School (CP) fifth graders Leah Bakoulis, Ashlyn Liverman, and Madeleine Peel, whose creations comprise 50 percent of the finalists in the recent nationwide Eco-Product Design contest sponsored by Elmer’s Products and TerraCycle.

At you will have the opportunity to select the “Glue Stick Jump Rope” created by the three girls collaboratively, or Ashlyn’s “Glue Top Earrings.” (There are, to be sure, two non-Princeton options, but we’re talking about unabashed chauvinism here, despite the fact that the girls claim to be doing it “just for the fun of it.”) The contest ends on Earth Day, April 22, when the Grand Prize winner will be announced. The winner will receive a TerraCycle and Elmer’s Prize Pack, and be featured on TerraCycle’s website and Facebook page.

The contestants’ challenge was to use commonly discarded materials to create new products. “We are happy to report that we were blown away by the submissions’ creativity, and selecting the finalists wasn’t easy!” noted the press release announcing the four finalists. The TerraCycle design experts who were the judges used “level of creativity and ingenuity,” and “how environmentally friendly and commercially viable the submitted product was” as criteria for success.

The Glue Stick Jump Rope’s durability was immediately apparent last week in a spontaneous demonstration offered by Leah, Ashlyn, and Madeleine. Further testament was provided by CP Spanish teacher Adam Blejwas, who noted that “every kid in the school has tried it.” Mr. Blejwas is the guiding force behind an ongoing recycling effort at the school, and was the one who initially encouraged the girls to participate in the competition. “We wouldn’t be here without him,” they said in unison.

The genesis of the glue stick jump rope occurred when the three girls made a successful earlier prototype using the shells from Crayola markers as a science fair project last year. The eco-product contest enabled them to “take it to the next level,” observed Mr. Blejwas.
Ashlyn’s own pierced ears may have been an inspiration for the earrings she designed, but she declined to model them, saying that the paper clip wires might cause an infection.

In addition to the two finalists’ places, Princeton showed up in the contest’s “honorable mentions” with Camille Bakoulis’s “Glue Bottle Change Purse.”

“Trashing Success”

Ongoing recycling at CP takes the form of strategically labeled bins in the lobby and lunchroom for things like used plastic bags, snack sacks, juice boxes and pouches, and, of course, empty pens and glue sticks. At the two-cents per item payment rate offered by TerraCycle, Mr. Blejwas reports, the school has already made over $400. It seems completely appropriate to learn that the money is being used for school garden improvements. Mr. Blejwas, who has been at CP for nine “wonderful” years, encourages everyone to participate in this “trashing success” by donating more of these items to CP.

In the meantime, Ashlyn, Leah, and Madeleine are looking forward to starting middle school next fall, even though the amount of homework “is going to be a big change.”

TerraCycle ( is the world’s leader in the collection and reuse of non-recyclable post-consumer waste. Elmer’s, which is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, offers recycling-related activities and lesson plans for teachers through their website

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