Moorlands Elementary turns bottle caps into art

Once they've been removed from their container, there's not much to do with a bottle cap. They tend to sit in the corner of that cupboard under the sink, having fallen out of the recycle bin. Difficult to recycle, they often end up sitting in a landfill until the elements finally have their way — whenever that is.

Students at Moorelands Elementary in Kenmore work on a school mural on Friday

Once they’ve been removed from their container, there’s not much to do with a bottle cap. They tend to sit in the corner of that cupboard under the sink, having fallen out of the recycle bin. Difficult to recycle, they often end up sitting in a landfill until the elements finally have their way — whenever that is.

That’s why, as a way to learn about recycling and beautify the building at the same time, Moorelands Elementary in Kenmore decided to turn the caps into something more aesthetically pleasing: A massive mural.

Students collected bottle caps from just about everywhere in the surrounding community beginning in mid-February. When completed, the mural will depict a mustang — Mooreland’s mascot — running on a green meadow in the shadow of a mountain.

The project collected nearly 40,000 bottle caps of all shapes and sizes.

“The community support and how the project brought the school together is just amazing,” said Janna Snider, who chaired the committee behind the art piece. “I’ve been blown away every few days.”

The process began about a year ago, when the PTA decided to get behind an art installation. Last May, the association held an auction, earmarking money for the art project. The mural will go on a big white brick wall in the coming weeks after the artist has put on the finishing touches.

The committee went through an extensive process to select the design and artist for the project, and settled on Bothell-based artist Stephanie Roman-Olvera. The committee had already seen examples of bottle cap murals from other parts of the country, and had, “fallen in love,” Snider said.

“It was one of those meant-to-be things,” Snider said. “She responded to our request and submitted a proposal, and when we opened the rendering, we found a local artist that wanted to do recycled bottle caps. The stars were aligned. She found us, we hired her.”

Roman-Olvera was hired in January, and the bottle caps began pouring in and took center stage. The project initially called for 30,000 bottle caps to be collected in about four months, a rather daunting challenge for 750 kids in grades K-6.

“It didn’t seem to discourage them at all,” Snider said. “They were so excited when they had little charts and graphs in classrooms for when they get to 1,000 or 2,000. One teacher threw a popcorn party at 1,000 and a PJ party at 2,000.”

Snider said some classrooms collected between 4-5,000 bottle caps, which needed to be sorted into bins of similar color.

“They enjoyed it,” Snider said. “Some kids didn’t want to go to recess.”

And on Friday, May 20, the project reached a climax as Moorelands Elementary kids began putting together pieces of the mural itself.

The k-4 kids glued bottle caps of differing sizes in stacks based on color, while the 5-6 kids screwed cap stacks onto sections of wood based on a pattern laid out by Roman-Olvera. The students finished about half of the panels, the rest to be finished by Roman-Olvera in the coming weeks.

Snider said she hoped the district would be able to install the mural before school let out for the summer.

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