A group of Hot Springs High School students are trying to clean up their community by turning old clothes into reusable grocery bags.

The project is part of the SMART Schools program. Hot Springs teachers say it’s a contest to see who can improve their community the most through science, and their students are up to the challenge.

The students have made about 170 bags from old t-shirts, jeans and fabric donations. They’ve also convinced the Hot Springs grocery store and both gas stations in town to use fewer plastic bags. 21st CCLC lead educator Beau Herman says the students designed the project themselves, and they’re learning skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

“Students are always having teachers tell them what to do, when to do it and how to do it,” Herman said. “To give them some autonomy to come up with an idea on their own, and to be the driving force of change in the world, as educators, that’s what we’re always looking for out of our students.”

Herman says the students are trying to teach the community about the dangers of plastic. They’re also heading up the charge to wash cafeteria dishes in an attempt to use less styrofoam. They hope their actions can inspire schools across the state to make more environmentally responsible choices.

Herman says the students need more fabric and clothing donations to make the bags. Drop-offs can be arranged by emailing school project lead Annie Gustafson at agustafson@hotspringspride.com.

There will be a symposium at Hot Springs on March 13 to highlight how schools and businesses across the area can help the environment.

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