Dress is success for science project

schandler@newsobserver.comJuly 28, 2013 

Monique Cohen, who recently completed eighth grade at Salem Middle School in Apex, stands with the dress she made out of newspapers for an Earth Day project in science class.

COURTESY OF BECKY GEORGE

When you’re done reading today’s newspaper, we hope you’ll recycle it. But if you’d rather use it to make a fetching dress, that’d be fine, too.

That’s the new life Salem Middle School eighth-grader Monique Cohen found for her own stack of newspapers recently, and it earned her a good grade and the admiration of her teacher and peers as an Earth Day project for her science class this year.

The assignment, which wrapped up last month, was simple: “You had to choose something that you think would be a good Earth day project and would help out the environment,” said Monique, who lives in Apex. Once you made your plan, she said, “you had to actually do it.”

Her teacher, Becky George, said the class had covered several sustainability topics over the course of the school year, so the assignment “was really broad” in order to let students pursue the area in which they thought they could make the most difference.

Monique did a lot of thinking about what she wanted to do.

“I really don’t recycle newspaper, so I didn’t want to just start to recycle it,” she said. Then she decided: “Maybe I can make an Earth Day project out of something that I like to do. So instead of just recycling it into a bin, I made it into something else I like.”

Something new

The result was a short party dress with fringe along the neckline and dozens of newspaper pages folded into fans forming the skirt.

“I took one of my old dresses and cut it and created it into a new dress,” she said.

To cover the old dress, she carefully chose newspaper pages to achieve different effects – “the smaller words” of articles in some parts, and color pages with big photos in other places.

In the end it was more a work of art than a wearable dress – “I tried to wear it, but I couldn’t fit it,” she said – but the message was fully functional.

“I learned that to recycle, you don’t just have to do the ordinary things,” said Monique, 14. “You can pretty much do whatever you want to do. You don’t have to just go out and collect stuff or just recycle stuff in a bin. You can create it into other things that you like.”

The dress impressed

George, Monique’s teacher, said she thought the dress was “really cool” – and she wasn’t alone.

At first, Monique said, she presented her dress to just a few classmates.

“But mine is one project that pretty much got around the whole entire school,” she said. Soon, everyone wanted to see it.

Monique enjoys drawing, and clothes often are an important part of the artwork she creates. She said she might try other projects that make fashion out of unusual materials someday.

“She’s very, very creative,” George said of Monique, who will attend Panther Creek High School in Cary this fall, “so making a dress was right down her alley.”

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