How to Build a Milk Jug Igloo

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, children at Midland Christian School in Midland, Michigan built the 428-jug igloo (shown above) after collecting and cleaning milk cartons for about three 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 (many of which are listed below).
  • A milk jug igloo is a great project for a classroom, nature center, library, Vacation Bible School, children's museum, daycare center, recycling center, or dozens of other places that seek to inspire children.

Watch the following video to get a nice overview of the process. Then check out the sections below for resources to add to your unit on snow, seasons, winter, recycling, or other topics.

How to Build a Milk Jug Igloo in Your Classroom

What You'll Need:

• LOTS of clean recycled plastic milk jugs, mostly gallon-sized but a few half-gallon jugs will be helpful too.

• A cardboard base. This can be made of several big pieces of cardboard taped together.

• High heat glue guns and glue sticks.

Steps to Making Your Igloo

Watch the above video for details!
 
 
1. Collect clean plastic milk jugs.
2. Tape together large pieces of cardboard to make a base.
3. Using a nail, string, and a sharpie make a circle on the base as big as your igloo will be.
4. Begin gluing jugs together with handles together. Then glue sets together with back tops touching.
5. Create the outer row with sets of four jugs. Make sure to leave an opening four jugs wide.
6. Add four more rows. Your sixth row will include jugs over the door opening.
7. Move each row in slightly to create a curvature.
8. When you reach the top, use half-gallon jugs to fill the hole.
9. Create an entry way. If you face jugs out you can decorate with colorful tops.

Some Practical Tips and Lessons We Learned

We learned some things from our igloo project. If you build one in your classroom (or home!), making priorities of these steps will make the project much easier.

  1. Promote Jug Collection Our milk jug igloo took more than 400 milk jugs. That's a lot of milk! (Or orange juice, or water). We put up posters around our school signed by the children and inserted a notice in the school's print and e-newsletters to get the entire school of 100 studeto help the collection effort. In addition, our teenagers "liberated" milk jugs from recycling bins in various areas of the city on recycling days. A parent helped out by collecting jugs daily from a local coffee shop. It took us three weeks to get all the jugs we needed.
  2. Wash Jugs Well You'll want to wash the jugs well as they arrive. Otherwise 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 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 The Inuit call these structures "iglu," which is appropriate because you'll use lots of hot "glu." We used about 80 long sticks, which cost about $12. A new dual-temperature gun 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, and washing.
  5. Collect Extra Caps Most milk jugs we collected didn't come with their lids. You may want to start early collecting 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 and on weekends. It took about 12 hours to make our igloo, which easily holds 8-10 first graders.

Building an Igloo Is an Opportunity to Learn

• Snow, winter, seasons, geography, and cultures.

• Math and science (counting, sorting, estimating).

• History (Inuit and other Native cultures that build igloos).

Tips for Planning Lessons

  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, or ecology. The more interesting your 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 in the comments section so everyone can benefit from your good ideas.
  2. Emphasize Reading Your completed igloo will be great for a reading nook. Talk about the kinds of books that relate to your unit. There are some great ideas listed below, including picture books that first graders could read themselves.
  3. There's Lots of Opportunity for Math Counting, counting by tens, graphing, estimating, and patterns (with the multi-colored caps). Your class could collect data about which store most families use to buy their milk?

The Perfect Book to Read While Building an Igloo

Mr. Popper's Penguins
Mr. Popper's Penguins

Of course penguins live at the south pole and polar bears and igloos are at the north pole, but what unit on winter would be complete without reading "Mr. Popper's Penguins?" My wife and I read this book to first-graders, and there are all sorts of helpful tools to integrate this book into your lesson plans and even a CD for an audio reading station.

 

Nanook of the North: A Documentary About Inuit Eskimos

One of the earliest film documentaries was Nanook of the North, made in 1922 by Robert Flaherty. The silent film documented the life of the traditional Inuit in Canada, showing ice fishing, hunting walrus and seal, trapping, building an igloo and trading pelts at a trading post. A short clip of the movie is available on YouTube.

Nanook of the North (The Criterion Collection)
Nanook of the North (The Criterion Collection)

Our hero Nanook builds an igloo in this film, runs a dog sled, paddles a kayak, hunts for seal and walrus. A bit mildly risque at one point.

 

Have you built a milk jug igloo? Share your experience! 76 comments

Kay Tucker 6 months ago

I live in Arizona and plan on putting together an igloo. I am afraid it will be too hot for the hot glue to hold. I need any suggestions on what else to use to glue them together.


Tigerlily 8 months ago

Also i didnt need a cardboard base or an base. Just the string.

Brought it home from park successfully. No damage from kids or car.

It is now on my verandah


Tiger Williams 10 months ago

This would be a great shelter for animals. Substitute scrap pieces of rolled linoleum, sealing the seams as best as possible, then layer the floor with straw, wood chips and shredded paper (this should be cleaned out periodically). Fill the bottom row of jugs with sand, to add weight and stability. Covering the entire igloo with a cheap tarp helps keep out the elements and keeps in the warmth.


Michael 22 months ago

What was the diameter of the base?


kk 2 years ago

asome


Shades-of-truth profile image

Shades-of-truth 2 years ago from USA

Great idea! We have built igloos, but not one like this! I am going to share this with my daughter, as her 9-year old daughter's class would really love making one of these igloos.


Yvonne 2 years ago

Can use as a green house.


Chuck 2 years ago

this is a great idea would be really great if you would use spay foam on the inside and out to make it last.


Celticep profile image

Celticep 2 years ago

Fab idea! My grandsons would love this!


tammy carlson 2 years ago

it's a very great idea, and a very good environmental project on what you can do to help the planet. and to reuse plastic. Wonderful job.


OUTFOXprevention1 profile image

OUTFOXprevention1 2 years ago

That igloo is so cool!


MzLizzie 2 years ago

Has anyone tried using tacky glue SPRAY instead of a hot glue gun? I believe it would save time and eliminate the need to hold the jugs together for a minute each time you glue. Any thoughts?


The_Kelster 2 years ago

This is so incredibly awesome! My aunt works with pre-school and kindergarten children and this would be so fun for them, I am going to forward this to her :) thanks!


anonymous 2 years ago

Great Lens!!


Ben Reed profile image

Ben Reed 3 years ago

A thoroughly enjoyable visit - thank you.


anonymous 3 years ago

I love this idea. I teach kindergarten in Alaska, and would love to give this a try. One point of clarification, though, for all those wishing to incorporate this into a thematic study. The Inuit live (and have alwasys lived) in the arctic, while penguins are in the southern hemisphere. That's the other cold side of the globe. If you are connecting them based on ecosystem or air temperature, I can see the link, but please don't misinform children to think that Alaska is full of igloos, sled dogs, and penguins. :-)


Margot_C 3 years ago

How clever! It teaches lessons on so many levels. It's a great way to recycle and I'm sure gives the kids a big sense of accomplishment. Thanks for sharing.


rattie lm profile image

rattie lm 3 years ago

I just LOVE this. Can't imagine how it fitted into the classroom but what a great experience, reading, writing, creating, discussion, give and take, all factored into the making of this. Just fabulous!


anonymous 3 years ago

@CornellMarCom LM: Our Cub Scout group is working on a part of the Black Star


CornellMarCom LM profile image

CornellMarCom LM 3 years ago

What a great idea. This would be good for cub scouts.


johnsonwarren profile image

johnsonwarren 3 years ago Author

@anonymous: I don't see why one couldn't build an igloo entirely out of half gallon jugs. It would take a lot of them.


anonymous 3 years ago

Would this work with ENTIRELY half gallon jugs? My school goes through about 100 half gallon jugs every week and would be easier to use those as opposed to gallon jugs?? Any insight would be helpful!!


anonymous 3 years ago

Cool. Project. Thanks for posting. I'm sorry your 80 glue sticks cost $12! You need to order form Dickblick.com. Get them by the lb or 5lb, they are cheaper than anywhere on the net. Happy building.


scribenet lm profile image

scribenet lm 3 years ago

I bet the children just love their igloos! Great idea!


anonymous 3 years ago

A great lens! Great ideas!!!


anonymous 3 years ago

I think this would be a great rain shelter for my free range chickens. They don't like the rain. Might make a good dog house too.


anonymous 3 years ago

@anonymous: im guessing it was a fridge box or similar, folded out :)


maryseena profile image

maryseena 3 years ago

A great idea!


StartYourDaycare profile image

StartYourDaycare 4 years ago

Super cool! I can't wait to implement this in my classroom! What a fun reading area. Thanks so much!


Freestuffer LM profile image

Freestuffer LM 4 years ago

Wow nice.


johnsonwarren profile image

johnsonwarren 4 years ago Author

@anonymous: The cardboard came from an appliance box which we obtained from a local big box store.


anonymous 4 years ago

@johnsonwarren: where did you get the giant piece of cardboard to put it on?


anonymous 4 years ago

@anonymous: make sure the milk jugs are super clean and dry...i have made several of these for my classroom, and i leave the lids on to keep the smell away.


anonymous 4 years ago

im going to do one for Christmas and put lights in it and put it outside neat idea thanks


anonymous 4 years ago

Pretty cool!! Good job you guys. Wonder how it will work for a hot house...


anonymous 4 years ago

I just collected over 400 jugs and plan to start building the igloo on Monday for my preschool. The hot glue didn't melt the plastic?


johnsonwarren profile image

johnsonwarren 4 years ago Author

@anonymous: The radius was about 50 inches, meaning the diameter of the first cirlce was about 8.3 feet. We used a string and a marker to draw this on the cardboard base.


anonymous 4 years ago

What is the diameter of the first circle laid down?


SecondSally profile image

SecondSally 4 years ago

Very cool if you've got the space.


anonymous 4 years ago

@johnsonwarren: Do you have any ideas that this could be a modular igloo? I want to make one, but need to store it from year, to year. Thanks Wendy K


anonymous 4 years ago

It looks so cool, I can't wait to build one, but I won't be doing it until fall 2013, that's when I will be taking over the school library that will be K-8. I would like to build one that will be permanent, that I would need to store. Does anyone have any ideas of how it could be built maybe as a modular igloo? I also would like to string some clear mini Christmas lights to give it an illuminated glow? Thanks Wendy K


anonymous 4 years ago

@anonymous: The plastic used in these jugs are not UV stable and will begin to breakdown when outside. They will become very brittle and with crumble within a few months.


johnsonwarren profile image

johnsonwarren 4 years ago Author

Jayne (Aug 21, 2012): We found that it helped stablize the igloo to attach the bottom to a large sheet of cardboard. If you weigh the lower level so they don't move as you describe, that might serve the same function.


anonymous 4 years ago

LOVE this idea! Do you think it would be possible to do outdoors without it all blowing away/being trashed by the weather? Do you think weighting the lower layer(s) with sand/water would be enough to anchor it??


anonymous 4 years ago

Our class satrted to build an igloo outside, but the rain and windswept it away. We are now going to make one indoors. We have to use 2L bottles because they don't sell milk in gallons in South Africa.


steph-naylor profile image

steph-naylor 4 years ago

This is a pretty cool lens!


anonymous 4 years ago

Awesome! Thank you for your information. It helped us out a LOT when we made ours. http://beautyinblissfulness.blogspot.com/2012/06/m...


Millionairemomma profile image

Millionairemomma 4 years ago

Amazing!


KittySmith profile image

KittySmith 4 years ago

This is the top of the list of BEST school projects.


Craftypicks profile image

Craftypicks 4 years ago from Las Vegas

This was seriously a wonderful project. Loved the video.


Craftypicks profile image

Craftypicks 4 years ago from Las Vegas

I would build one for my dog!


anonymous 4 years ago

@jimmyworldstar: velcro dots maybe


fullofshoes profile image

fullofshoes 4 years ago

Never seen anything like this before and it's wonderfully creative! ~blessed~


KayeSI profile image

KayeSI 4 years ago

What a fun idea for grandparents and grandchildren as well! And so educational! We've been learning about the Inuits - this could make a fun summer project.


anonymous 4 years ago

I am wondering if anyone has used the small plastic jugs that come with Kool-Aid type drinks in them. It would make an igloo small enough to use for dolls maybe, in a place too small to use the full-size milk jugs.


anonymous 4 years ago

My church did this on a Christmas float. We used them also on bottom of float. We put clear Christmas lights inside of jugs. It looked just like ice. Our theme was Happy Feet. We won 1st place in church division and the Grand Marshall division. Some people come out of the parade and asked what it was made out of. We also had a fishing pond out of jugs also. Santa was going into igloo, all you saw was his rear.


jimmyworldstar 4 years ago

I can't figure out how you could make them stack without falling without using glue. I wonder if that's even possible?


anonymous 4 years ago

@johnsonwarren: Thanks. I'll post a picture when I am done. Kids are so excited.


johnsonwarren profile image

johnsonwarren 4 years ago Author

@anonymous: There was a natural curvature to the milk jugs when they were placed with the mouth to the inside of the igloo. We may have moved in slightly as we got to the middle and higher rows, but to be honest, it just seemed to work out.


anonymous 4 years ago

I am in the process of creating this igloo which I think is fantastic. Did you move the jugs in about an inch when you placed each row or did they just fall that way?


anonymous 4 years ago

AMAZING!! I love this idea.


johnsonwarren profile image

johnsonwarren 4 years ago Author

Many people ask what happened to the milk jug igloo when we were done. We were able to tear it apart, stomp the jugs flat and haul them to the local recycling center. They filled up a minivan, but we got them there.


anonymous 4 years ago

What did you do with the igloo at the end of the year?


Buchamar 4 years ago

This is absolutely adorable!


luckyone924 5 years ago

i enjoyed your lens! my niece and nefew will love to make one time to start saving milk jugs!


anonymous 5 years ago

You have a very resourceful lens.


Jack-in-the-Box 5 years ago

What fun! I love it. Thanks


anonymous 5 years ago

A couple of years ago my kindergarten class built an igloo using 1,000 plastic jugs. We were able to fit the whole class of 24 students and the teacher inside the igloo. I am now building an igloo with my first grade class. They are so excited! This is an activity that I am going to do every year.


yayas profile image

yayas 5 years ago

This is an amazing milk jug igloo! I can hardly wait to share this idea with the teachers in our school. Thank you for sharing such an outstanding idea.


kingsrookie lm profile image

kingsrookie lm 5 years ago

Great lens! Really innovative


Lee Hansen profile image

Lee Hansen 5 years ago from Vermont

I love the concept and the lessons in this milk jug class project to create a reading igloo. Like the cone of silence built from recyclables by group effort. Brilliant!


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stephenteacher 6 years ago from Corona, CA

That incorporates a lot of skills, including math and problem solving! Great idea!


GonnaFly profile image

GonnaFly 6 years ago from Australia

These igloos look truly amazing! But your milk cartons look bigger than the ones we normally get here in Australia (how do they ever fit in your fridge door??). I guess we'd just need more.


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KarenTBTEN 6 years ago

That is a great classroom project -- beneficial to students on so many levels!


evelynsaenz1 profile image

evelynsaenz1 6 years ago from Royalton

Great resources for building a milk jug igloo.

Lensrolled to Lemmings: an Arctic Classroom Unit Study


Lee Hansen profile image

Lee Hansen 6 years ago from Vermont

What an interesting project for a team of kids - building the milk jug igloo incorporates many learning opportunities.

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    Tigerlily 8 months ago

    I made a milk jug igloo for my granddaughters birthday party. It was a hit with all the kids.

    I didnt use glue. It wasnt strong enough for me. I needed to transport the igloo to the local park and it needed to cope with excited kids at a birthday party.

    I punched holes in the plastic with a metal skewer and then I threaded the bottles onto strong string. The holes are simple to punch and they do not tear. I needed an extra long needle, 15cm, as used to make teddy bears.

    I used hot glue to seal the knots.

    I was surprised by the bottle tops, many will only fit their own brand and i had quite a mixture of brands. (Friends and neighbors helped me collect 250 bottles) the structure didnt need them and i could have left them off but they looked so pretty

    For the entrance, i cut the top off the bottles to make 'sleeves' and slipped 4 sleeves onto the end of every bottle near the entrance.


    Deb Bennett 9 months ago

    We have made several over the past 15 years. Lining the inside and floor with cotton batting made it more "snowy" and comfortable


    Shades-of-truth profile image

    Shades-of-truth 2 years ago from USA

    Love it!


    anonymous 3 years ago

    We are building an igloo in our center and is really fun and the kids love it Jefferson Ave ABC Head Start Rochester NY


    UKMarkWilliam 3 years ago

    Too much interesting lens. Thanks for this lens.


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    outdoorprojects 3 years ago

    What a great idea!!!!


    anonymous 4 years ago

    wow amazing igloo thanks for sharing great lens


    DaveGSE profile image

    DaveGSE 4 years ago

    Tweeted, Google + 'ed etc.. This. Is. Awesome. (Y)


    Natalie W Schorr profile image

    Natalie W Schorr 4 years ago

    Awesome lens!


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    ottoblotto 4 years ago

    Totally cool ideas!


    rogerrph 4 years ago

    great article!


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    yayas 5 years ago

    Thanks for a tour of the recycling process. This has been a very interesting education.


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    tandemonimom lm 5 years ago

    Brilliant!


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    Kylyssa 6 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

    Awesome! Great lens about how to build a milk jug igloo. Thanks for sharing.


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    Franksterk 6 years ago from California

    Excellent idea for reusing milk jugs. Involving kids should hopefully education them on recycling but also get their minds thinking of other uses for milk jugs. Bear hugs, Frankster

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