BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Columbia Middle School seventh grade students had the opportunity to "upcycle" discarded bottles while learning about ecology when they created a sculpture of a sea turtle and an Orca whale.

Middle School Art Teacher Joseph Lanni came up with this idea over the summer when he saw a sculpture made out of plastic bottles. "I thought it would be fun to create large sculptures of endangered animals using plastic recycling," he said. "I also wanted a project that would show students that art can be used to make a positive and direct impact."

Besides the actual construction of the sculpture, the 7th grade art students did research, created and edited time lapse videos of our project creation from start to finish, said Lanni. "We corresponded via email with Sea World and Great Adventure for information that we used."

Sign Up for E-News

A representative from the NY/NJ Baykeeper organization spoke to the students about plastic pollution and waste in our water and the effect on animals and our environment, said Lanni.

The students brought in plastic bottles for extra credit. In addition, the staff held a dress down day to help raise money to sponsor a sea turtle which is one of the animals effected by plastic waste and one of the animals created in the project. Half the money raised was donated to NY/NJ Baykeeper organization.