March 19, 2019

Beverage Box Ideas for Starving School Teachers

If you’re like most teachers, free is your favorite price when it comes to classroom resource materials. Enter the humble cardboard beverage flats.

You know the ones. They come holding soda cans by the case. Not the colored ones you rip open. The soda can flats I’m talking about here are those plain ones the vending machine person uses, or that are used to hold cases of canned vegetables. Preferrably the rectangular shape. About the size of a piece of art paper on the bottom and several inches deep, they are one of the unknown gems of classroom teaching. So make friends with your grocery stocker and school vending machine person. You’re going to want to load up on these things for sure. Move over shoe boxes!

To give credit where credit is due, this is one of those ideas I got turned on to by those resourceful folks on the island of Guam. If there is one thing I learned there as a teacher, it was how to be resourceful. Here are a few things you can do with the plain brown beverage flats that soda cans come in.

Marble painting.

All you need is one marble, one color of paint, one paint cup, a spoon, a sheet of plain photo copy paper for each student, and an empty beverage flat. Call up students one at a time while they are working on seatwork. Each student will place their piece of paper (you could even use the back sides of extra copies) face up on the bottom of the beverage flat after writing their names on the back. Have a small cup of the paint ready for learners to carefully drop the marble into. Have them fish it out carefully with the spoon, draining the excess paint against the inside of the cup and taking care to keep the marble coated. They will then drop the marble in the box and replace the spoon in the paint cup. Next step? Start rolling. The box will keep the marble contained and the paint will really last quite some time. They can go from side to side, corner to corner, or both. Each piece of art work will be unique and minimal art supplies are needed. Rock on!

Construction paper scrap boxes.

I like these far better than a larger box. First of all, each only holds enough to be easily sorted through by students working on art projects or book celebration assignments. They are much easier to reach into, even for me as an adult. Bonus? In the same amount of classroom space it would take to store a larger cumbersome scrap box, I can stack enough scrap-stocked beverage boxes to make an entire class activity work using small seated-together groups of students. Now this is the kind of idea I wish the mentors had given me early in my career. I really could have done without all the tedious, stay until ten o’clock at night to individualize the vocabulary list advice. No offense intended.

Briefcase portfolios.

This was one shown to me by a fellow third grade teacher on Guam, Carolyn Ferrares. Carolyn, you’re a rock star when it comes to classroom instruction on the cheap and easy. She basically showed me how to slit one of two beverage flats along the two corners (long side) to create a back flap. This was attached to the same side of the bottom beverage flat by poking two holes and adding brass paper brads. Then, the two beverage flats will slide together similar to the way a delivery pizza box works. If you want to go the extra mile, you can fashion an affordable rope handle through both thicknesses of the front edge. If this is too plain for you, you can either cover them with paper or spray paint them first. When decorated in their full glory, these things are absolutely precious. When I finally get my teaching supplies out of storage, I’ll put up a picture. If anyone else has done this, please post a link to the image. This is truly a great little project.


Have each student paint three beverage flats in a single matching color. Then, they will need to develop a picture which is actually done on three separate pieces of art paper lightly tacked on the back with painters’ tape. Make sure in advance that the papers will each fit neatly on the centers of the back of the beverage flats. Separate the papers and attach them in order on each beverage flat. The open side will be used to hang each box in order by the top edge. I really love this project because the depth of the boxes gives the finished pieces a museum style look when hung against the wall. Bonus? It’s dirt cheap to do.

Science fair displays.

As with the triptychs, you’ll need three beverage flats for each student doing a science fair display. Cover them with butcher paper or paint and hinge together twine, tape or the medium of your choice. Put together the sections of your science fair project data and attach to the sections of the back sides of the boxes.

Story boards.

You only need one per student for this one. Attach a stapled together file folder to the bottom of the inside to holt stick puppets. Paint or cover the box and design the overall visual story elements (field, sky, trees, etc.) on the back either vertically or horizontally. The scenery should of course match the story title. Also assign written retellings of the story in question as a separate writing grade. Have students perform their retellings at the end of the school week.

There you have it. My favorite ways to use plain cardboard beverage flats in the classroom. Got any additional ideas? Let us know so everyone can benefit!

Flickr Photo Credit: Lorentey

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