Elementary school in Germantown turns bottle caps into art
All 732 Gibbs students help create 18-foot mural
Even a lowly bottle cap can be elevated into art as the students of William B. Gibbs Jr. Elementary School have learned this year.
In a unique, school-wide art project, all 732 students at the Germantown school have had a hand in arranging more than 4,000 multi-colored bottle caps into an 18-foot-long mural.
Almost five feet tall, the mural dwarfs some of the students who worked on it. The work will be installed in the school's lobby soon, but is stored in an art classroom for now.
"When it first goes on the wall, we won't be able to walk away, to stop looking," said a cheerful Brooke Kenyon, a kindergartner at the school. "We worked really hard to make it look really nice."
The mural took five weeks to finish and each grade was in charge of a special part of the creation. Fifth-graders drew images of the school's curriculum inspired by themes taught in each grade, and then combined all their ideas into one design.
"We found it fun. It was cool how we took a bunch of different pictures and brought them all together as one," said fifth-grader Catherine Allen, who looked for uniquely colored bottle caps while grocery shopping and collected donations from her mother's coworkers.
Her favorite parts of the mural are a hill and flowers, two ideas she included in her first drawing.
The final design spans from outer space to a green hill, with yellow bottle caps forming the sun and autumn leaves. Symbols to represent the concepts of "reduce, reuse and recycle" are scattered across the hillside.
Fourth-graders painted the background and other grades positioned the bottle caps, using their lessons about color and art. Third-graders picked complementary and contrasting colors for the surface of the planets; second-graders used their knowledge of symmetry to arrange bottle caps on large butterflies; and first-graders created a monochromatic tree scene.
Kindergartners divided the caps into primary and secondary colors and then decorated flowers. Pre-kindergartners sorted the caps by the colors of the rainbow.
"I like where the alligator is and the space part," said first-grader Om Desai. "It's a little weird though because the branches come into space."
Om said he can't wait to see the finished mural installed. "It is going to be awesome," he said.
Students brought in more than 10,000 bottle caps for the project. A stack of plastic drawers in the back of art teacher Melissa Vanderslice's classroom hold some of the leftovers. Two full garbage bags were donated to another school that wants to do a similar project, Vanderslice said.
Parent and grandparent volunteers also helped, screwing the bottle caps into the wood and drywall base. The materials, aside from the donated caps, were purchased by the school's PTA.
Inspiration for the project came from artist Michelle Stitzlein, who wrote a book about bottle cap murals, Vanderslice said.
In many jurisdictions, bottle caps are not recyclable. Montgomery County started accepting them as part of its curbside collection in 2008, said Alan Pultyniewicz, the county's recycling manager.
The mural speaks to and reinforces the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling, Vanderslice said. It encourages students to think differently about re-using commonly discarded materials.
"Anything can turn into art," fourth-grader Matt Beekey said.
"Even if it's trash," added classmate Brittany Holt. "It's amazing how you can make something from trash that is so beautiful."