First Graders Win Award for Plastic Bottle Greenhouse

Mt. Pleasant Elementary school teacher Marla Moore with her gleeful, award-winning 1st graders

First graders who collected nearly 4,000 disposable bottles to build a greenhouse for their school’s garden earned 2nd place in a contest sponsored by the Philadelphia Zoo.

TSD introduced readers to Marla Moore’s 1st grade class at Mt. Pleasant Elementary last month just as they had completed their outdoor conservation project.

plastic bottle greenhouse - construction

Marla Moore’s 1st graders proud of their plastic bottle greenhouse, which saves 4,000 disposable bottles from the landfill and provides year-round growing opportunities

The plastic bottle greenhouse sits over an existing garden bed which the school uses to grow vegetables, eaten by the students in the cafeteria. Now vegetables can grow year-round inside the 6 ft x 6 ft greenhouse, and the plastic bottles avoid the landfill.

Nearly 3,000 students in over 200 classes from over 100 schools participated in the UNLESS Contest through the Philadelphia Zoo this year. The Mt. Pleasant Elementary 1st graders took second place in the Kindergarten to 2nd grade division. 


“When they announced that we were the 2nd place winner, my kids leaped up with excitement! I had tears in my eyes and was trying to not cry. I wanted to place so badly for them because I didn’t want to have to face 19 disappointed little faces,” said Marla Moore.

The Mt. Pleasant 1st graders also raised $2,700 to purchase 750 re-usable water bottles for all of the students at their school. The judges said that extra effort is what catapulted the youngsters to take a second place finish.

plastic bottle greenhouse - award

A few of Marla Moore’s students pose after their 2nd place win

“The fact that they reached both goals – collecting 4,000 disposable water bottles and raising enough money to give re-usable water bottles to everyone at the school – is pretty remarkable. They worked hard all year long to make this an award-winning project,” said Moore.

Moore said her students now appreciate that even youngsters can have a big impact on their environment. “This project showed my students that identifying a problem, coming up with a plan, and taking action for that plan all pay off. Now, all we have to do is continue to tell our story — a story about how no matter how small you are, you can make big changes in this world.”

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About the Contributor

Christy Fleming

Christy Fleming

The managing editor of, Christy Fleming also supports a variety of non-profit initiatives in Delaware. Her background includes positions in public relations, advertising and journalism.