Bottle cap mural at Preston Elementary School urges kindness

Staff Report
This mural made of bottle caps is on display in the hallway of Preston Elementary School.

CUYAHOGA FALLS — An elementary school principal found a unique use for bottle caps.

A 7-foot high mural made of bottle caps with the phrasing "Be The I In Kind" and the word "Kind" in assorted colors is on display in the hallway of Preston Elementary School.

Principal Tammy Brown said she saw a piece of art work in another school building that incorporated bottle caps and decided something similar should be assembled in her building.

"I thought what a potentially terrific project for us to do and have a mural surrounding kindness which is so very important in the world," said Brown.

Brown said she talked with the art teacher, who she said was "totally on board," and enlisted the help of her brother, who works in theater set design.

"I put the message out to the entire Black Tiger Family and the community that we had a need for caps," said Brown, who began collecting bottle caps at the school two years ago. "We knew it would take quite a few [caps] and we weren't sure how many. I'm always looking for something to have the community help us and join us, so that we're feeling like a community."

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, it prevented students from helping with the project. At that point, Brown said work had begun on sorting bottle caps, particularly the more colorful ones.

She had hoped to begin working on the mural at the beginning of the current school year, but the project was put on hold due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, community members continued to drop off bottle caps outside the front of the building.

"Then I had quite a few kids, families and community members asking when are we going to see it, when are we going to see it," said Brown.

She said she eventually decided, "we need something to get people excited and happy about what they've helped with."

Preston Elementary School employees Karen Hummel and Angie Hill sort bottle caps for a mural that is now on display in the main hallway of the building.

Starting around Thanksgiving, Preston staff members cleaned and sorted caps, and Brown noted the process took a long time because the community was generous with its donations. The goal was to have the mural finished when the students returned from holiday break.

Members of Brown's family, which included graduates of Falls High classes of 1959, 1984, 1991 and 2011, teamed up to place and glue caps on the mural during the holiday break, and this unique creation is now exhibited in the main hallway. Brown noted her brother and daughter played a pivotal role in finishing the project.

Twin Kindergarten students Ashleigh and Page Smith pose in front of a bottle cap mural at Preston Elementary School.

"The mural has caps of all shapes and sizes and colors which is extremely representative of the community today," said Brown.

There are still more bottle caps available and Brown said she is hoping to have students work on creating a second mural starting at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. Community members are encouraged to continue dropping off bottle caps in the baskets at the front door of the building.

"We would like colorful ones," said Brown.