POST FALLS - Those empty milk cartons at lunch can come in handy when you need them.
Post Falls High School art students found that to be the case before winning $1,500 for the school's art department in the national Made By Milk Carton Construction Contest.
Post Falls High School's "Flamingo Habitat" creation featuring a pink flamingo strutting in its environment was among 11 entries to win a prize out of more than 100 that included schools of all levels. More than 700 milk cartons were used.
"We had a fun experience making the flamingo and we were actually really surprised that it turned out as good as it did," said Aislynn Kenna, a PFHS student on "Team Flamingo."
"I think we would all do it again in a heartbeat."
Post Falls was among four high schools out of 30 that earned awards. The contest, sponsored by Memphis-based Evergreen Packaging, a paperboard carton manufacturer, was created last year to promote awareness of carton recycling and milk consumption among students. Contestants were asked to create a habitat.
"The contest was a great opportunity for my students to learn about art and sculpture while using inexpensive, recyclable materials in a manner that was new and exciting to them," said teacher Derek Kahler. "They were able to see that something as simple as a milk carton can be shaped into a work of art."
Kahler said collecting cartons fast enough was challenging.
"It was hard to keep up with the construction process at first, but my students had certain deadlines to meet and had no qualms collecting cartons during their lunch every day," he said.
The only other materials used were newspaper, a wooden dowel and a piece of plywood.
Entries needed at least 100 cartons intact and no more than 20 percent of the structure could be made with other materials.
"Having the students learn to work with what they have available really helps to develop their problem-solving skills and critical thinking," Kahler said.
Mustang Elementary in Mustang, Okla., won the contest's grand prize of $5,000 for creating a coral reef using 6,482 empty cartons. The contest will resume this spring with a new theme.
More than 70 percent of milk carton packaging is paper, made from trees, a renewable resource.
"The Made by Milk program teaches a valuable, hands-on lesson in recycling," said Katie Lewis of Evergreen Packaging. "And, with so many other beverage choices available in school cafeterias, this program gives children a fun, educational reason to choose milk."