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Sunday Science: Cabot science students win $10,000 contest - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sunday Science: Cabot science students win $10,000 contest

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CABOT, Vt. -

Last year when Cabot School's AP Environmental Studies class teamed up with the band to put on the little-known folk opera "Lillian," they had no idea it would lead to big bucks for their science class.

The class designed the lighting and studied which lights would help the production use less energy.

"When we were doing Lillian stuff, you'd walk into the room and it's like a disco party," says junior Clementine O'Connor.

Some of it is still hanging from the classroom ceiling months later. Students used milk bottles from the cafeteria and lights to create sea creatures.

"Me and my friend, we made this anglerfish," O'Connor says. "And it's like a stuffed animal almost. We used plastic packing bags to fill it and bubble wrap."

Because much of the opera centers around the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, re-using trash seemed like a natural fit.

"It was so amazing. Just knowing that we made all of those and we got to watch the whole thing come to life," says junior Galadriel Morse.

"I was blown away, just completely blown away by it," says teacher Michael Hendrix.

Hendrix says the project was a creative tie-in to his lessons on energy efficiency, lighting output and water quality.

"I remember waking up the next morning and I must have been smiling the entire time because I woke up and my face was sore," he says.

But soon, he was going to have another reason to smile!

They submitted their project to the teachers fundraising site Donors Choose, and from there, were selected to be a finalist in the Teach for the Planet Challenge. Now the internet decides the winner, but Cabot rallied around. Two weeks later, they found out they'd won.

"I remember screaming and just running down the stairs of my house," Hendrix says.

"I was like 'Oh my god, I'm so happy! We won -- this is so exciting!'" Morse says.

And now, they get to figure out how to spend their prize money -- $10,000! Looking around the classroom, Hendrix has a few ideas.

"A lot of the glassware still needs to be replaced," he says.

He says, only half-joking, that a lot of this science equipment may be older than he is, and it's pricey.

"So this is the big thing. This is what we're growing our microbe samples in, which is an incubator that is actually used for chickens," Hendrix says. "These kids need to be learning lab technique and they need to be learning the appropriate tools of the trade and this isn't helping."

And their centrifuge is only collecting dust -- not DNA.

"This one doesn't work. It's lovely to look at but it actually doesn't work," he says.

His students have some ideas of their own too.

"Well, we've joked about getting a fleet of drones, which is funny because we're just really into that sort of thing," Morse says.

As for the plastic-bottle lights, Hendrix says they're here to stay.

"We're keeping the room this kind of vibe. The kids love it," he says.

Hendrix said the whole project only cost them $500.

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