Headed to the stars

(Photo/courtesy Mustang Public Schools)

By Traci Chapman

Mustang Elementary art students soared to the stars in a milk carton space shuttle that took grand prize for the fall 2013 Made by Milk contest.

The accomplishment was major in itself, but what really made it significant was the fact it was the school’s third national award in as many years, art teacher Kent Hathaway said.

“The second time we did it, no group had ever won the award in two back-to-back years, and here we are three times in a row,” Hathaway said Tuesday. “It’s amazing.”

Hathaway learned of the award Monday and told students about it as they returned to school from Christmas break.

“I made the announcement over our broadcast, and I could hear them cheering from inside my room,” he said. “They’re very proud of themselves.”

The winning creation was a space shuttle fashioned out of 41,286 milk cartons, which garnered the school a $5,000 prize. Those funds, as well as $10,000 earned during the last two competitions Mustang Elementary won, would probably be earmarked for gymnasium or other equipment all of the students could enjoy, Hathaway said.

“They wanted to make sure all of the students received the benefit of the award,” he said.

The 22-foot space shuttle was submitted under a “transportation” theme. In 2012, students built a 26,000-plus carton Golden Gate Bridge in the landmark themed contest. The group’s first entry was a giant coral reef made up of about 10,000 milk cartons.

“It just keeps getting bigger and better,” he said.

Mustang Elementary wasn’t alone among Mustang schools in its Made by Milk submission. Mustang Centennial Elementary students fashioned a giant replica of RMS Titanic as well. Students there were caught up in the enthusiasm of creating something, first-year art teacher Kristen Polson said last month. Conferring with Hathaway, who was assigned as her mentor, Polson and more than 30 fourth-grade art club members worked on the replica.

“Art club means they give up recess once a week to work on special art projects,” Polson said. “They did a great job and they were super enthusiastic and passionate about it every day.

“Even on the most boring jobs, like stacking 500 cartons together, they were doing it and were amazing at it,” Polson said.

The district’s involvement with the Made by Milk contest began with an email sent by Tammy Bales, Mustang Public Schools child nutrition director. In that email were the details about the contest, which required students to gather at least 100 milk cartons and construct something that went along with the theme. With their first entry, the coral reef, a prize winner, students couldn’t wait for the 2012 fall contest.

“The students were on fire,” Hathaway said. “Their next creation was over three times the amount of cartons as the first.”

Now with three wins, students and teachers alike were excited not only about the national attention given to the school district, but also about the sense of accomplishment that came with creating a piece of art with an everyday item. And while the two elementary schools submitted entries in the Made by Milk contest, the honor was truly shared by the entire district, Hathaway said.

“The other art teachers and I are doing everything we can to make the arts kind of a staple,” he said. “We’re just trying to bring more attention to the arts in Mustang.

“It’s not about me and not about really only my students – it’s about the school district,” Hathaway said. “We’re getting national attention for what we’re doing at Mustang Public Schools.

“That’s the most exciting part – that everyone gets affected by what all of us as teachers are trying to do,” he said. “It’s even more exciting when you think about the fact that most of these students are 10 years old.”



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