A reading garden is sprouting at Chapelfield Elementary School, with student-designed sculptures covered in colored plastic bottle caps.
Thanks to a $2,500 grant by the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation, artist-in-residence Michelle Stitzlein spent last week in art teacher Bonnie Meeks' classes to help students create sculptures using recycled materials.
Meeks said students have been collecting plastic bottle caps since December.
Seventy-five to 80 caps are used per square foot on plywood cutouts designed by Chapelfield students.
"The gist is using something that would have gone into the landfill," Stitzlein said. "It's being resourceful, using bottle caps as art material."
She's the author of Bottlecap Little Bottlecap, a paperback that provides instructions for four art projects for children, families, schools and nonprofits, using recycled plastic bottle caps.
Chapelfield's reading garden will be in front of principal Shea Reed's office, anchored by a large plywood tree.
The bottle caps were drilled into the cutouts Thursday and Friday, April 3 and 4.
"You won't even see the plywood," Stitzlein said.
Ten-year-old Samantha Easterling said the bottle-cap art project has been fun and interesting.
"We're learning how to recycle more," she said. "You can have fun with art and recycle. Save the earth; go green."
Meeks said the students designed 31 sculptures for the reading garden that will feature a cardinal, a snail, a butterfly, flowers, a bee, a worm, a peacock, insects and a large tree.
Meeks and retired first-grade Chapelfield teacher Linda Courlas cut the designs out of plywood, and then the students painted them.
Saharuh Howard, 10, said she was happy to get an opportunity to paint her own design, a rainbow.
Stitzlein said she's in her 10th year of visiting elementary schools and organizations as an artist-in-residence, sharing her passion to create art with recycled materials.
"It's a cool project," Meeks said. "It incorporates other content areas and has great real-world connections."
Meeks said she hopes the reading garden is finished by the end of the school year.
The Chapelfield reading garden is one of 28 projects the GJEF recently funded.
Dale Foor, GJEF president, said $48,685 in Grants of Excellence was awarded in addition to $2,910 in mini grants.
Foor described Chapelfield's project as one of the most interesting.
"It's a neat GJEF-funded project with lots of community connections," he said.