Russell Elementary Students Learn While Giving Back 

During December, schools across the Cobb County School District collect food to donate to those in need. For some schools, teachers turn the food drives into lessons for their students. As an example, the season of giving is still the season of learning at Russell Elementary School.  

This is the sixth year that Russell students have transformed their food drive into a can-a-thon construction project. Since 2013, Russell students have collected almost 8,000 cans for those in need in the community.  

This year, Russell students used more than 1,500 cans to create sculptures ranging from a nutcracker, human-size bottle of Coca-Cola, and a clock to a model of the solar system and an amusement park.  

All the student designs are integrated into what the students are learning about in class.  

Constructing a solar system out of canned goods helped fourth-grader Allan and his classmates visualize the planets and their details like the great red spot on Jupiter that’s been raging for hundreds of years.  

Whether they were building a rainbow unicorn out of cans or a roller coast, the students used their math skills to create designs that didn’t topple over. The students also had to explain how they worked as a team and write about their designs, including why they selected their canned construction. 

“The reason we chose a Coca-Cola bottle was to represent Atlanta and the coke factory,” explained Piper, whose class claimed the title of the 3-5 grade can-a-thon level winner. “We wanted to show love for Atlanta and the Coke Factory.”  

Students in Charlotte Seel’s second-grade class chose the Nutcracker because the students are going on a field trip to see the Nutcracker. The second graders used Legos to build a model of what they wanted their canned nutcracker to look like when finished. However, as they worked through the engineering design process, as all the students had to do as part of their canned construction, the nutcracker kept falling over. They reworked their design to make the Nutcracker in a seated position.  

Their ingenuity ended up winning them first place in the K-2 category and a trip to deliver the canned goods to 11 Alive’s and the Salvation Army’s community food drive. Because their oversized Coke bottle won for the 3-5 grade level, Russell students in Shana Wade’s third class joined the second graders on the field trip. Both classes helped sort the cans they had collected.  

The experience reminded the students about why they were collecting the cans in the first place. They were helping people in their community, but having fun and learning while doing it.