Garbage makes a splash with school's Red Fish sculpture

April 15, 2011 

Its eyes are clocks, and its scales are plastic name tags. Its tail is a rake, and its innards are plastic bags.

Meet the Red Fish, a sculpture made of recycled materials created by students at Sea Pines Montessori Academy.

Students presented it to Hilton Head Island Town Council last week to serve as the unofficial mascot of the new island-wide recycling program.

The 7-by-5-foot sculpture is held up by two sawhorses, and all of the materials were collected at the school or brought in from students' homes. Art teacher Sarah Perry reeled in, so to say, students throughout most of the Montessori grades to contribute to the project.

The fish will eventually return to the school, where it will be displayed in the front corridor with other student art projects. The lesson learned isn't just about the mechanics of sculpture, but also the concept and purpose of recycling.

"There's a difference between garbage and recycling," said 9-year-old Conrad Alford.

Students learned the difference between garbage and "good garbage," which includes the plastic bottles, tin cans and other recyclable materials that can be placed in the curbside bins.

The project puts an imaginative spin on repurposing discarded items. At first, brown packing material just looks like, well, brown packing material. But at second glance, it could be skin for a lizard or honeycomb in a hive. Recycled art always has been used in some degree at the academy, Perry said. But it's become more frequent after the fish project.

Some middle school students even made sculptures of Lowcountry animals for the Coastal Discovery Museum out of wire hanger, plastic bags, bottles and whatever else they could come up with. In the future, even if the students stop seeing fish scales in packing material, they will be able to identify it as recyclable.

"They definitely look at recycling in a different way now," Perry said.

Bella Green, 9, hopes the Red Fish can show Town Council and anyone who sees it how one person's trash is another person's art.

"I think they should be amazed at what we can do," Bella said.

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