Monday, October 17, 2011

Igloo with Recycled Plastic Milk Cartons

Instructions for Creating an Igloo with Recycled Plastic Milk Cartons

Igloos are cool. You can easily build an milk jug igloo in your classroom with some planning, lots of milk jugs and hot glue.

For example, the children in Classroom 1 at
Midland Christian School (Midland, Michigan) built the 428-jug igloo shown here after collecting (and cleaning) milk cartons for about 3 weeks. This medium-sized igloo is large enough to hold about 8 to 10 kindergardeners or first graders during free reading time -- and a principal fits in there too. Total cost: about $12 for 80 glue sticks. The milk jug igloo provides all sorts of opportunities for links to social studies, math, science and reading topics.

Video: How to Build a Milk Jug Igloo

Directions for building your own milk jug igloo.


Practical Tips for Planning & Building a Plastic Igloo from Gallon Jugs

Here are some things to keep in mind.

This is what we learned when building a milk jug igloo for the classroom:
  1. Promote Jug Collection - Our milk jug igloo took more than 400 milk jugs. That's a lot of milk -- and orange juice, water and so forth. We put up posters signed by the children and inserted a notice in the school's print and e-newsletters in order to get the entire school of 100 students to help the collection effort. In addition our teenage sons liberated milk jugs from recycling bins in various areas of the city during their appointed recycling day. A parent also helped out by collecting jugs daily from a local coffee shop, which was an excellent source. It took us 3 weeks to get all the jugs we needed.
  2. Wash Jugs Well - You'll want to wash the jugs well as they arrive, or your classroom will begin to smell pretty bad -- and you'll be teaching a lesson on microbiology instead of snow. We strung the jugs in groups of 10 and stored them in a corner of the room.
  3. Use a Cardboard Base - Using a cardboard box as a base will give your igloo stability as you glue the first row down. You can get a large box from your local big box or appliance store on delivery day. A refrigerator box works well.
  4. Use HIGH TEMPERATURE Hot Glue - You'll need a HIGH temperature hot glue gun and HIGH temperature hot glue to put everything together. The Inuit call it an "iglu," which is appropriate because you'll use lots of hot glu. We used about 80 long sticks, which cost about $12. We only had a low temperature gun, so we had to buy a new dual temperature gun. That was about $14 on sale. So our total igloo investment was under $25. Because of the dangers of getting burned, the children played a limited role in the actual construction, but there was still plenty for them to do with counting, graphing, making patterns out of the lids, washing and so forth.
  5. Collect Extra Caps - Most milk jugs we collected didn't come with their lids. You may want to start early collecting just caps so that you have enough to make patterns and decorate the final result.
  6. It Takes Time - We built a few rows a day,mostly after school, then more on weekends. It likely took 12 man hours total for the size of igloo we built, which easily holds 8-10 first graders.

Educational Tips for Igloos in Education

A milk jug igloo is a vehicle for teaching many subjects & skills.

  1. Pre-plan Your Entire Unit - Your igloo will be part of "a complete breakfast." In other words, it will complement the unit that you are teaching.--whether it's snow, Winter, seasons, geography & cultures, ecology or some other topic. The more you build an interesting unit, the more impact you'll have on achieving your learning objectives. There are all sorts of extra resources listed below. Please add additional ideas using the Feedback area so everyone can benefit from your good ideas.
  2. Place an Emphasis on Reading - Your completed igloo will be great for a reading nook, so you'll want to make a special emphasis on what you read as you collect jugs and build your igloo. There are some great ideas listed below. In addition to numerous picture books, many of which the first graders could read themselves, my wife read Mr. Popper's Penguins, which is a classic chapter books suited for this age range.
  3. There's Lots of Opportunity for Math - Counting, counting by tens, graphing, estimating, patterns (with the multi-colored caps) and so forth. At which store do most families buy their milk?

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