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Boreal Community Media

Great Expectations School K-8 students to collaborate on art mural made with a unique item

Nov 27, 2023 09:02AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Roberto Sorin

By Sammie Garrity - Boreal Community Media - November 24, 2023

Art is a very subjective craft. It comes in many different shapes, sizes, and overall forms. This isn’t an exclusive form of expression, either. Art is one of those things that doesn’t have rules. It can be made out of anything and everything. Art can be sourced from any inspiration, as long as it brings the idea of the artist to fruition. That means that art can be made from not only paints and clay but garbage, too. 

Great Expectations School has taken this principle and created a project that is both beautiful and educational. In partnership with the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, GES got a grant to use waste to create artwork. More, specifically, a mural. Their main message is surrounding sustainability and beauty—trying to bring awareness to the necessary practices of both proper disposal and reuse. More specifically, they are trying to educate people on how to properly reduce. Anne Mundell, a teacher at GES explained how they are having students K-8 collaborate on a long-running project to create a mural made out of bottle caps. There will be inter and cross-grade collaboration in order to create this piece of art. This means that the entire school will be putting a piece of their creativity into it, making it a true representation of the student body and the values of the school as a whole. 

This type of project is not unique for Great Expectations, either. Each year every classroom has a different environmental focus to “Help build awareness, solve problems, and develop a deep connection to the natural world,” said Mundell. For instance, the 5th and 6th grade Lynx classroom is typically responsible for recycling collection and sorting. However, every year, this task proves increasingly difficult as the recycling gets mixed in with trash like gum and unwashed, unrecyclable plastic products. People don’t always know or care what piece of waste goes where and it creates extra waste and puts an extra burden on the people who are trying to sort it. This issue is what sparked inspiration for the bottle cap mural; GES students are hoping that they can bring greater awareness to the widespread use of plastics and the ability to reuse. 

Bottle caps that aren’t recyclable are often discarded and to try and reduce this, GES has begun collecting and sorting them. Though the project started out slow, Mundell said they are now “Washing close to 3 bags a week and need larger boxes to sort the caps,” with an overall goal of collecting 10,000 by the end of December. As families have become more involved and the message has been spread at a greater rate, more caps are being collected. 

To aid in this process, the kindergarten class is in charge of sorting and counting the caps. It not only enhances their mathematic skills by teaching them to count and compare quantities, but also excites them because they get to “Dump out a clean bag and see all the colors,” said Mundell. It isn’t just kindergarten doing this, however. In the near future, other classrooms will be brought in once the amount of bottle caps increases. 

Once the collection has finished, work will begin on actually making the mural, where students will work in groups to screw the bottlecaps on as well as paint. This will involve cross-grade collaboration with older students working with their younger reading buddies to aid in using power tools and assisting with the logistics. Eventually, the students will team up with local artists to brainstorm design ideas and create a layout. In the end, the mural with be placed on sanded plywood and placed on display.

This particular project is very special because it is a representation of the great impact that a small group of people can make on helping the earth. Bringing education and art together creates a beautiful lesson showing that there are so many ways to clean the planet and simultaneously learn something interesting. 

The initial cap collection ends in December, but there will likely be a need for more donations afterward based on desired colors and supplemental amounts.  Boxes are set up at the Grand Marais Recycling Center, the Cook County Co-op, and the GES entryway where anyone can drop off caps. Mundell said that GES would love to have other businesses join in on the collection to make this mural become a reality. The completed mural is anticipated to be unveiled in May of 2024. 

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