SIERRA VISTA — Center for Academic Success students in Katarzyna Gacek’s middle school art classes are creating colorful, outer space-themed mosaic murals.

And they’re doing it with bottle caps.

With the students working in groups of four, the mural project combines art with recycling while allowing students to design textured space scenes.

“I like that we’re reusing plastic items for an art project instead of throwing them away,” said Jasmine Sarmiento, 12. “And I like the space theme. All the classes are working on different space designs, and our class decided to work on constellations.”

Gacek says she’s all for teaching her students fun ways to recycle and create art with objects that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Her students are using all sizes of plastic caps, straws and aluminum soda can tabs as they work at creating mural images.

“When the school received a large donation of plastic bottle caps from a woman in town — around 6,070 of them — I was asked if there was anything I could do with them,” Gacek said. “After doing a little digging, I came across bottle cap murals that other art teachers have done and thought it would be a really fun project.”

Gacek’s classes got together to discuss ideas for a theme, and settled on outer space.

From there, all five of her classes were asked to come up with an idea that falls within that theme. Each class voted on the different ideas their classmates pitched; they voted on a favorite, and five different “space-themed” murals started taking shape.

“Their ideas are very creative,” Gacek said. “Our murals are featuring space pollution, which is the manmade junk that orbits around earth, a galaxy scene, Baby Yoda in space, zodiac constellations and a scene with an astronaut and UFO.”

Next came the drawings.

The students were asked to draw their class theme, and each class voted on the drawing they liked best for the bottle cap mosaic mural.

Eleven-year-old Hannah Gibbs had the winning drawing for the sixth-grade class.

“My drawing was the zodiac constellations, and that’s the design the class voted to use for our mural,” Gibbs said. “This is a really fun project, and the murals look amazing when they’re done. The bottle caps give them a textured, three-dimensional look.”

Once the students in each class knew what image they wanted for their mural, it was time to sort and count the thousands of caps.

“We had to sort all the caps by color, and count them all to figure out exactly how many caps we had,” Gacek said. “We also had to fill up a poster board with bottle caps and count those to see how many fit on one board, in order to determine how many caps each class would need to successfully construct each mural.”

After everything was planned out, the students started constructing their murals. The first step was to draw and paint the image on the boards, then start gluing the caps and other texturing items in place. Along with bottle caps of all sizes and colors, the students used straws and silver tabs from aluminum cans for added texturing.

“We separated the mural boards in fourths so that students could work together on a section,” Gacek said.

As of late last week, three of the five murals were completed and ready to be displayed somewhere on the CAS campus, Gacek said.

The fourth mural is close to the end process, with the fifth one making good progress, she added.

“They look really cool, and I can’t wait to put them on display around the campus.”

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