When creative teachers harness the energy and curiosity of eager students, amazing things can happen. As part of their lesson plan linking conservation and global responsibility last year, the children of South Street Elementary in Newark, New Jersey recreated Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” using 5,000 reclaimed bottle caps. Learning grade appropriate lessons ranging from identifying colors for kindergarteners, and math, art history, and about the life of the painter himself for the older students, the 8 x 12 foot mural was installed at the Newark Museum for all to appreciate and enjoy.

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The “Starry Night” mural was not only an excellent way to engage the minds and talents of the students, but also an opportunity to bring the community together. Project coordinators Andrea Arguello and Tatania Benus were initially inspired by the book Bottlecap Little Bottlecap by Michelle Stitzlein, and they suggested their idea to principal Karen George-Gray, who helped build the curriculum and raise money for the materials. Soon, neighbors, students, parents, teachers and local businesses got involved, collecting the bottle caps and donating wood paneling. The local Home Depot provided the hardware needed to fasten the caps to the wood. Once completed, the Newark Museum enthusiastically accepted the mural for display.

“Although this mural may just be bottle caps and paint to some,” said Benus, “it means much more than that to us. To me, this mural represents the success that can be achieved when different people in a community come together to help support our schools. It represents the engagement our students demonstrated when they learned about Vincent van Gogh, and the smiles, and even some tears, their parents shed when they saw the completed work for the first time. But most importantly, it represents the pride and accomplishment our kids felt when they were recognized for their work — particularly when they heard it would be exhibited at the Newark Museum.”

The bottle cap masterpiece will be on display at the Newark Museum from April 13th to June 23rd of this year.

+ Newark Museum