Trees and animals art installation decorated with bottle caps

This story features a learning activity that took place prior to school closures due to COVID-19.

Bennett Elementary School students, under the guidance of Gifted Teacher Renee Blaine-Duggan and Art Teacher Amy Holt, recently completed phase-one of an outdoor project that's been two-years in the making. The two educators challenged the kids to creatively display what they've learned while researching the native plants and animals of Virginia.

The concept ultimately involved using plastic bottle caps, of varying colors and sizes, to represent a scene in nature that focused on the plants and animals they had researched. Sticking as close to actual scale as possible, students used math to calculate the number of bottle caps they would need. Then, they accumulated lids over a two-year period leading up to the project launch.

"We are still working on a few large interior pieces that will be hung on a wall along a ramp. We've made a giant microscope, a paint palette and a treble clef already, and we're in the process of finishing up a DNA model, stack of books, globe and sports equipment," noted Holt.

When it came time to begin, all K-5 students were given the chance to help screw the bottle caps onto the wooden frame. "They were so excited to wear safety glasses and use the impact drivers," added Holt.

The younger students got one-on-one assistance to help alleviate any fears due to the sound of the tools. In fact, a group of fifth grade girls became so comfortable with the impact drivers that they were able to instruct younger students. The same girls even gave up several indoor recesses to work on the structure.

The project has received an overwhelming degree of support from the school community and is funded by SPARK, the Education Foundation for Prince William County Public Schools.