It is a lesson that started with a single pop tab and a classroom.
About a decade ago, fifth grade teacher Randy Utzig looked at that pop tab and had an idea that it could make math fun. He started collecting more pop tabs and gave them to his students. They used them to learn about addition, subtraction and probabilities.
It was fun.
The students enjoyed it so much they started bringing more pop tabs to Utzig’s classroom at Town View Elementary School in Beloit. The pop tabs started to develop a life of their own.
"I started with two large containers and I thought, 'Oh, that will be enough,'" Utzig said.
Because the pop tabs were used for counting they began to keep track of how many they had. The number steadily grew until it reached six figures.
That’s when the kids got an idea.
"We said, 'You know, what would one million look like? Alright, let’s see if we can find out,'" Utzig said.
This year, with storage bins filled with pop tabs stacked throughout the school, the total reached 1,200,000.
After 38 years of teaching and retirement approaching Utzig decided the pop tabs could be used to teach a lesson about more than math. This time, they would help to teach a lesson about life.
"I guess you have to say you’re never too old to be learning," Utzig said.
One year ago a former student of Utzig, Jenni Krueger, gave birth to a little girl named Cora. Complications resulted in Cora being transferred to Meriter Hospital in Madison where stayed in a NICU. The Ronald McDonald House opened their doors and hearts to the Krueger family.
"I was scared. I cried. I really didn't know if we were going to make it and we did make it and so this day is huge," Krueger said.
On Cora’s first birthday family and friends gathered again at the Ronald McDonald House to celebrate. Utzig was there to and he came with a birthday gift for Cora: 1,200,000 pop tabs.
He donated them to the Ronald McDonald House in Cora’s name. Once recycled, the Ronald McDonald House will receive more than $1,000.
Pop tabs that taught fifth graders lessons about math for many years provided one final lesson about life.