CALLENDER - A 3-pound coffee can holds approximately 3,000 pop tabs, a 1-pound can, 1,000 tabs; a small plastic drinking glass can be filled with 300.
That's how students and teachers at Prairie Valley Elementary School in Callender have counted the approximately 4,065,354 pop tabs they have collected over the years.
No matter how they count them, each of the pop tabs collected by the students at Prairie Valley is making a difference in the lives of families served by Ronald McDonald houses across the United States.
-Messenger photo by Emilie Nelson
Ian Graves, a fourth-grader at Prairie Valley Elementary School in Callender, measures pop can tabs Thursday afternoon. The school collects the tabs as part of its fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House charity. Since 2002 the students have collected more than 4 million tabs.
Started in 2002 as a Character Counts caring project in one classroom, the pop tab project has since grown to include the entire school. When the project began, Justin Alphs, who was a prekindergarten student at the school, was battling cancer. His family utilized the services of the Ronald McDonald houses at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn and the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis.
Alphs is now a healthy sixth-grader. The students have continued to collect the pop tabs in memory of Coleman Larson, who died of brain cancer in January. Larson's family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital in Iowa City. Larson's twin brother, Caden, is a preschool student at Prairie Valley.
"This started as a math project that we tied in with Character Counts in my classroom," said Pam McBride, a resource teacher at Prairie Valley Elementary.
The project has far exceeded McBride's expectations, both in numbers and support.
"I didn't know the community would back the project like this,"she said. "The smaller towns and smaller school have really supported it."
McBride said many of the students collect the pop tabs at home, but that they often get a little help collecting from family members and friends.
"Some students will come in with one or two tabs," she said "We had another student whose grandpa brought in 19,000 tabs on a rope."
The pop tabs are worth approximately $.45 to $.60 per pound. One pound is roughly 1,267 tabs. Depending on their exact monetary value, the students have raised between $1,400 and $1,800 for the Ronald McDonald House since the project began seven years ago.
"Right now, we're shooting for 5 million," said McBride.
Contact Emilie Nelson at 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org