Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bottle Cap Artwork

The last 2 weeks have been dedicated to bottle cap artwork with my 4th-6th grade students. The students were, overall, very engaged and excited. I only had a couple panels planned out ahead of time, the rest were designed by small groups of students. The students designed the panels by arranging caps on the boards (a few were large cardboard pieces, most were foam core panels the daughter-in-law of a teacher pulled out of the trash bin at her office) to see if it would work. When they were "done", I checked and made suggestions. If it passed inspection, I moved the panel from a table to a "gluing station". We used glue guns, which went very well considering it was the first time some of the students used a glue gun. I know that hot glue is not going to be a permanent fixative for these panels, but it was cheaper than buying boards and screws. I'm hoping they'll last at least a couple years if handled with care. I have no idea how many glue sticks we used, but it was a lot! I think we went through 100 mini glue sticks just yesterday and today (9 classes).

We ran out of a few colors today and had to improvise a bit. One panel, that because a little unrecognizable after the gluing, was disassembled so we could use the caps again. Purple seemed to be the least common color. We still have tons of red caps that our wonderful lunch room workers saved, and even washed for me!
This was definitely a team effort. Some students were painting backgrounds while others were arranging, and still more were gluing. The next class picked up where the previous class left off. I told the students if they were being responsible, respectful, and working quietly, I would let them choose how to contribute. I really only had to redirect a few! The bad part of this process, was that a small group might have worked really hard to make an awesome design, and had to trust someone else to finish it. It was fine most of the time, but not all my students put as much work into good craftsmanship. The baseball, pictured above, did not so much resemble a baseball in the end. It kept getting more and more lopsided when students were not putting the cap back exactly where it came from.
This was a problem solving opportunity. At first the "create" sign was in all red letters. Nobody could read it, so we changed to a rainbow color scheme and filled the background with white, which just so happened to be our most plentiful color.

When I looked at the end of the day, I was so impressed with what my students accomplished! 
 Only a couple of these were my ideas. I said no KU or KSU signs, and it obviously had to be school-appropriate. Some ideas didn't come together and were not glued. These were the panels that ended up being finished!
Gold Fish
American Flag
Golf Ball
Moon and Stars
Red Flower
Cat (it became a little disfigured when glued)
Pac Man
Breast Cancer Ribbon
Yin Yang 


  1. These turned out great! Although I'm not an art teacher, I have done a year long art unit with my Gifted & Talented students this year. Our culminating project is a bottle cap mural (small one) for our school. Any suggestions?

    1. Get as many caps as you possibly can and have them sorted by color. One bold, simple object works best with smaller panels. Most students try to fit too much into their designs.

  2. These are wonderful! I'll bet the kids had a great time creating these - and there are some terrific connections with other areas of the curriculum (K-2 maths; Environment Studies, Science, Technology...). I love Carolyn's idea for a mural! What's the theme?

  3. Very cool! Am going to do this next school year!

  4. My students and I just finished a mural for our school. We had thousands of bottle caps left over!! Thanks for the ideas on how to use up the rest!!

  5. Well, I think these turned out great... I've been saving bottle caps for months now, wondering how to use them in the classroom. I had attended a workshop a year ago, but we screwed them onto wood panels... they were weather resistant. I couldn't see doing that with kids in the classroom, like you mentioned, but I didn't think the glue would hold well... and I wasn't sure how well hot glue would work... I can see I would need several hot glue guns. Did you use hot temp or low temp glue? How long is one of your class periods? I'd like to do this with a class or two, but thinking it's too much for a class of 25 students in a 40 minute period. Sorting and storing the caps... storing the works in progress until the next week I see them... how many sessions did it take to finish? I think they made spectacular pieces... and you did a superb job carrying it out. Kudos to you, Katie!

    1. Thanks, Bea! I had high and low temp glue guns. We have 40 minute classes. Since we did everything collaboratively, we didn't have to worry about storing them for too long. Students finished what others started or began to work on new panels. I'd guess the average time for a medium sized panel was two or three sessions if the foam was left blank and more if painted or a larger size. If we'd had more glue guns and extension cords it could have fine faster.