Students turn more than paper profits with jewelry made from ditto sheets

September 16, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

WESTMINSTER -- One middle-schooler's math quiz becomes another student's jewelry, after the Dangling Dittos corporation is done with it.

The brightly painted and lacquered earrings, pins and barrettes sported by West Middle School students were once the "ditto" sheets teachers handed out with lessons and tests, hence the name of the 3-year-old corporation.

The enterprise already has raised hundreds of dollars for the school, and over the summer it won a $250 regional award and recognition from the American Paper Institute in its "Best Recycling Stories" contest.

"It basically was a rather well-rounded project with a lot of subject areas, and it involved a lot of students," said Sandy Kravetz, a spokeswoman for the American Paper Institute.

Teachers Martha Keane, Carla Criss, Tom Hepler and Nicki Alban took the idea from a science lesson on papermaking and recycling to a year-long project that incorporated math, social studies, art and science.

This year, the sixth-graders who are now in those four teachers' classrooms will carry on the corporation, Mrs. Keane said.

The money earned from selling the jewelry at school fairs has gone toward planting trees and shrubs and buying picnic tables for an outdoor science classroom the students created at the school.

Also, the Dittos landed a contract to make 300 pins for an outdoor educators association convention held in Westminster last year. The company raised a total of $500 in 1991-1992, not counting the prize money. It all goes to the outdoor science classroom.

To manufacture their jewelry, the sixth-graders set up an assembly line to tear the paper into small pieces, swish it around in a solution of starch and soap, whirl it in a blender and strain it in a colander.

The resulting wet mass was rolled out on a mesh screen and allowed to dry into something that resembles cardboard.

"Then cutters pick a pattern and trace it, then cut it," said Jeremy Strassman of Warren Court, son of Eric and Margie Strassman. Jeremy was among last year's Dangling Dittos and is in seventh grade this year.

Students with some artistic talent, such as Jessica Bracken, daughter of Evelyn and George Bracken of Stacy Lee Drive, painted the jewelry. Packagers prepared the items by mounting them on pins or other hardware.

The students learned about economics by running the corporation and applying for jobs within it, based on their qualifications.

For example, the accountants had to be students who had good grades in math, Jeremy said. He first applied to tear paper and cut the shapes "because I thought it would be easy," he said.

"But I asked if I could go around and look at other jobs," he said.

"I enjoy math -- I enjoy money as well," said seventh-grader Erin Clarke of Niner Road, who got one of the accounting jobs and kept ledgers and wrote out "paychecks" last year. She is the daughter of Connie and Russell Clarke.

The American Paper Institute has been sponsoring the nationwide contest for four years and received 300 entries this year, Ms. Kravetz said. The Dangling Dittos were picked as the top school or charity in the East.

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