Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bottlecap Mania

What happens when you take thousands of bottlecaps, some power tools, and add elementary students?

A masterpiece!

Following in the spirit of reusing materials to create art, this collaborative bottlecap mural was unveiled at the Elementary Fine Arts Gala.

I first learned about bottlecap art through a link on Briargrove Elementary's Green Artroom blog to Thomas Elementary and the artwork of Michelle Stitzlein. I bought her book and began a school-wide collection of bottlecaps, with prizes to the homerooms that collected the most caps per student. After the first round of collection, it became clear that certain colors were "more valuable." The second collection included point levels for different colors. Teachers were insanely competitive! In the end, I learned that dark brown bottlecaps just don't exist in China, except on really expensive bottled coffee drinks.

We had a beautiful day for assembling the mural. Our maintenance staff purchased the wood and screws. I primed the wood and sketched on the design, then assigned each elementary classroom a 15-30 minute time slot to come to the mural site.

Three high school students that were not on spring trips were my assistants. Since most of the drills did not have speed settings, we had one "big kid" to each drill, guiding the students as they used the sensitive triggers. Younger students basically held their hands on top of the "big kid's" as they drilled the bottlecaps. Older students worked in partners under their "big kid's" watchful eye. At the end of the day, the "big kids" and some teachers finished the background.

The completed mural will go in our cafeteria. The back wall has white tiles that go three-fifths of the way up, but is plain white wall for the top two-fifths. I designed the bottlecap mural to fit above the tiles. The mural will need to be completed in two or three installments. The first portion is almost complete, with kimbap created by elementary students and a taco created by high school art students. (The theme for the mural is International Foods.)

Even though it wasn't installed on the wall, we still had the kimbap available for viewing at the Elementary Fine Arts Gala. The students were so proud of their work! My students are true city-kids; unlike my childhood, their dad doesn't have a table saw in the basement. For most students, this was their first experience with any sort of tool.

Next year, I'll reassess the bottlecap situation, perhaps organizing another collection drive, and then plan another day filled with students, power tools, and thousands of bottlecaps!

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