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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
Other Examples of Milk Jug Igloos
- Idaho elementary student building massive milk-jug igloo
A massive, 1600-jug igloo in Burley, Idaho will be large enough to fit a classroom of 35 students inside and may qualify as the world's largest milk jug igloo.
- Kindergarten class uses milk carton igloo to emphasize reading.
Kindergarten students in Lubbock, Texas enjoy selecting books and crawling inside an igloo to read them
- Kaleb Headley's Igloo
The Headley family built a milk jug igloo in their backyard with 227 jugs. It took a lot of time to save milk jugs and they eventually called for help from their homeschool network.
- Little Giraffes Teacher Ideas
Photos of a small, 155-jug igloo from Mrs. Flanagan's kindergarden class.
Activity Sheets and Instructional Guides
The Perfect Book to Read While Building an Igloo
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.
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.