How can we serve our neighbours by transforming trash to treasure?

Project Overview:

Our neighbours in The Rose Garden townhouse strata had a problem that could be solved with art. When entering their complex, the first thing people saw was their pair of brown, rusted dumpsters. They approached ACS last spring wondering if the art students could design and execute art to transform them into something unique and beautiful; something that the residents and their guests would be proud of rather than embarrassed about.
Students were introduced to the strata, its residents, and their problem. They explored design options and ideas for public beautification through local field trips and internet research. Students worked individually and then in pairs to develop designs to paint on the dumpsters and presented them to the strata residents, who voted on their favourite design. In the weeks following, the students worked together to execute the paintings. The project culminated with an unveiling, picture taking, and a pizza lunch at the school with strata residents.

“When I initially received the email from the neighbours, I was reluctant to take it on; I even postponed it until the next fall. I was worried about the amount of work it would take, and I was worried that we wouldn’t do a good job and I would be embarrassed. It did turn out to be a lot of work, and it required a lot of flexibility and hours outside of the class schedule. But when I read the reflections of the students at the end of this project, I actually choked up because I couldn’t believe how deeply they had come to understand the power of art to bring community together and make the world a better place. When these students think back to their high school art classes, this will be the first project they remember; the learning was deep, authentic, and impactful.”

Jonathan Boer: ACS Teacher & Project Designer


  • Dumpster Painting

How has this engaged students in ACS’ mission and vision?

Engaging Minds: By offering them an opportunity to devise a creative solution to a real world problem.

Nurturing Hearts: By building relationships between our students and our neighbours.

Shaping God’s World: By turning an ugly dumpster into a beautiful one and by showing students how to use their creative gifts to serve community.

How has this learning experience served or connected to our community?

The most obvious way this project served community was by beautifying our neighbour’s property. But perhaps more importantly, the art class built a relationship with these neighbours that will last and open doors to more opportunities in the future. When these neighbours, many of whom had said they had never stepped foot in our school before, think of us in the future it will be with positive thoughts and an openness to engage with our school community.

“[This project] integrated a lot of collaboration and team effort which you don’t exercise in individual art projects, except maybe in sharing and developing your ideas. It was also on a particularly grand scale and was more like commissioning art for a client than making it for one’s own preferences and taste.” Emma B.

“We definitely built a bit of a relationship with the seniors complex, despite the short time that we’ve actually known them. Art can bring people together, through the planning of the process, and also the creating. Art, even if on a dumpster, can really just be something that makes someone smile.” Erin A.

“Through this project I learned that public art is created to make others happy. It’s not about the artist. Placing art on walls, in public areas can change the way a person feels when they are there. For the strata people, they didn’t like driving into their complex every day, only to see two ugly dumpsters obstructing their view. With our designs that we painted on the dumpsters, we were able to turn their negative thoughts about the dumpsters, into positive thoughts. We turned something ‘trashy’ into something that can be ‘treasured.’ ” Sarah B.

“Art can bring people together. It isn’t just for the artist; it can be used to brighten people’s lives and lift their spirits. Going through this project we learned how to use this gift of creativity to serve others and build community. Through this project, our school has made a link to the Rose Garden for a long time. Hopefully, they will remember us fondly and take an interest in what our school does.” Anna M.

“Art gives us a way to serve our community and it allows us to make connections that wouldn’t be possible without art. We served our community by painting their dumpsters and now they will see those dumpsters everyday and be reminded of the connection we built through them. And I learned that making the art is only temporary but the art and the memories last longer.” Abigail M.

Student Reflection


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Transforming Trash To Treasure Outline
Personal Profile
Trash To Treasure Reflection
Trash to Treasure Evaluation