Pepsi Contest Could Help Local Children With Their Science


  • Courtesy of Pepsi

The Pepsi Refresh Project sounds like a mildly sinister plan for the newest attempt to defeat Coke: Pepsi With Lime, Pepsi With Rum, Pepsi Less Than Zero, Pepsi Is Better Than Coke. The real result, at least if applied to the St. Louis area, could be something much more akin to a small-scale version of Bio-Dome. Local science enthusiast Kristin Denham began her entry for the Pepsi Refresh Project, an organization that grants money to enterprising individuals, by flipping over a cap on a bottle of Coke's enemy. The idea that developed could teach children about natural food (so not Pepsi).

Denham's project to build a greenhouse at Clyde Hamrick Elementary School is currently ranked tenth in total votes online, and if it stays in the top twenty until July 31, it will become a living, breathing, eco-friendly reality through $5,000 straight from the carbonated giant. Gut Check talked to soda scientist Denham about how the project could affect students, one of which she's a pretty big fan of: her six-year-old daughter, also a science buff.

If your project is approved, what will it create? I hope to build a greenhouse for children at Clyde Hamrick Elementary School in Imperial. The school has some broken equipment right now that we can repair and use, and we could create a fun and functional greenhouse for the students there, who are in kindergarten through fifth grade. It's important to teach an understanding of nature to a lot of low-income kids where I live. They don't have the chance to get fresh fruit and vegetables and understand where their food comes from. I want them to understand that food can be healthy and also be able to see how food develops and how farmers raise it. If one plants takes three months to raise, how is an entire field of soybeans created? I want them to see how that process affects their lives.

Where would the greenhouse be built? It would be on the school grounds. I met with the principal and kind of let her know what my idea is, and she seemed gung-ho. We walked around to get an idea of where we could put it up. There's an area behind the school that isn't really used and would be a great place for the kids to work on this. I would probably have to be involved for the first couple years until the teachers get used to what to do and what to buy. I plan to leave some of the money directly in an account for the school to buy pots and dirt and materials for other projects when I'm gone. It's the home of the gifted program for the entire district, so a lot of kids would be able to use it, not just the ones at that school.

How did this idea begin? I have to say I'm a big Pepsi fan, and I just saw the information on the cap. I went online and thought it was a really great idea. I care deeply about science education. I'm a 27-year-old stay-at-home mom with a two-year-old, and I'm going online at UMSL and Jefferson College. I'm majoring in science, and I'd like to get my certification afterward. I'm currently a student right now to be a middle school science teacher later. I grew up caring about the environment and the world around me, and I want to infuse that into kids. I don't want them to just drive by a field of flowers. I want them to say, "What kind of flowers are those, and how did they get there?"

How does the contest's submission process work? I figured the whole project out towards the end of May, and I submitted in the first five days of June. They don't tell you if your idea has been accepted. You just have to go online and see if you're there, which obviously I was. The voting ends July 31, and for my category, which is worth $5,000 in funding, they accept and fund the top twenty. Right now, I tell every single person that I meet. I have a stack of flyers I hand out to get the word out. I put them up at gas stations and the police stations. I really hope this happens.

You also have a six-year-old daughter who goes to Clyde Hamrick. Is this a project she would enjoy? Oh my goodness, yes. She definitely has a love for the natural world. I was talking to a cousin of mine about the project, and she works in a school district where there's a greenhouse. Every Christmas, they sell poinsettias to raise money for the school. I hadn't even considered that kind of idea. We're a rural school, so we don't have a lot of property taxes benefiting the district. It would be cool for them to get involved, and my daughter would love that.

You can vote for Denham's project online here or text in a vote for free. Text the numbers 107176 to 73774 (Pepsi) to vote as often as once a day.


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