Art Teacher’s Mural Project Teaches Kids Recycling

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Teachers are always looking for ways to connect their lessons to the world outside of their classroom. By showing students that their classroom activities have real world applications, teachers can help students to better focus and engage with their lesson plans.

Caitlynn Compton, an art teacher at Harrisonville Middle School in Kansas City, Missouri, has done just that by connecting the art from her classroom with an impact on the environment. Over the 2013 and 2014 school years, Compton and her students created murals of the school’s Wildcat logo that were mounted last week at the beginning of the 2015 school year.

Not just any murals, these defied traditional mediums and were composed entirely of trash. Compton and her students created mosaics made from the lids of plastic containers, using a variety of colors and sizes to make something beautiful.

Over the course of the project, Compton challenged her students continuously about the environment. 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students contributed to the project, with older students performing more complicated work like assembling the mural itself as younger students collected, cleaned, and painted lids.

As the materials were collected and assembled, Compton asked her students to think about what would have happened to the lids if the students had not used them for art.

“At different grades, the kids learn a little bit about recycling,but it’s not every year that we address the side effects of health hazards or environmental concerns that come with not recycling,” Compton said.

Compton plans to continue collecting lids with her students in the years to come so that she can keep engaging students in environmentally friendly art projects. By teaching her students about more than just art alone, Compton is helping them to engage with and value art in ways that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.