It took about 3,000 children about 1,000 days, but they did it - collected a million pull tabs and screw caps from soda pop containers.

And Monday, dozens and dozens and dozens of plastic buckets toting pounds and pounds and pounds of tabs and caps were passed along a meandering line that threaded for yards and yards and yards through Sunrise Elementary School.The buckets ended up in a waiting semitrailer truck.

There, Rit Fish, an employee of Reynolds Aluminum Recycling Co., emptied the big buckets of tinkling aluminum into bigger buckets and prepared to haul them off for recycling.

The project began three years ago, said Gaylan Stewart, a fifth-grade teacher, when a class read a book titled "What is a Million?" and decided to find out what a million of something looked like.

"We chose aluminum items because they had value," said Stewart, who with Lee Ashton has supervised the project.

Good thing. If they'd chosen elephants, Monday's undertaking could have been more colossal than it was - and it was pretty colossal, with children in a king-size kiddie wading pool scooping up tabs as fast as they could to start them off on the bucket brigade.

Back in 1985 at the outset of the project, one of the things the students learned right off the bat was that one class couldn't amass a million pull tabs and bottle caps very quickly.

A wall chart grew by inches and inches and inches along a large wall of the school. Relatives and friends sent tabs from Germany, Hawaii and Alaska. A local merchant saved 25,000 for one student, and American Legion Post 112 threw another 10,000 into the pot.

"We talked about trying for a billion, but that would have taken us about 3,500 years. That's as much time as has passed since the Pharaohs were building their pyramids in Egypt," Stewart said.

Charles R. Johnson, area business manager for Reynolds Aluminum, said he expected the Sunrise collection to weigh out at about 1,100 pounds - an amount good enough to give the school approximately $500 for computer equipment.

As it is, some of the children who began the 1 million project three years ago are now ninth-graders.

One can only conclude that 1 million is lots and lots and lots.