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This 6-foot Mayan pyramid is created out of recycled materials


Art, Social Studies  


K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  

Title – 3-D Recycled Mayan Step Pyramid
By – James Miller
Primary Subject – Art
Secondary Subjects – Social Studies
Grade Level – K-5

The pyramid was stationed at our school library at the time of the photo.
It looks terrific with on stage with kids in costume and palm trees, mountain props in the background!

Project Note: Being close to Mexico, my wife and I have spent our summer vacations there driving to every Meso-American archeological site for the last 7 years. We have been impressed by the step pyramids created by the ancient people of the Americas and decided to create one using recycled materials donated from families of students. K-5th grade students created the entire pyramid with the exception of the detail painting. I based my project on the architecture found at the Palenque ruins in Chiapas, Mexico. This project was used for Youth Art Month and will be exhibited in public libraries in our area, The Rio Grande Valley of Texas. If you plan to move the project to various locations, skip the liquid nails step.


  • 12-pack refrigerator soda can boxes (38 boxes)
  • Various cardboard boxes
  • Recycled Newspapers
  • Elmer’s Glue and Liquid Nails Glue
  • Tape
  • Acrylic or Tempera paints

Cardboard box specifications:

  • Two 18″ x 18″ boxes for Bottom Step Bases
  • Four 10″ x 14″ card board boxes for Middle Step Bases
  • One 7″ h x 14″ w cardboard box for Top Roof Comb
  • One 9″ h x 11″ w cardboard box for adjoining Top Roof Comb
  • Four coke boxes for right-hand side Wall Façade
  • Four coke can boxes for left-hand side Wall Façade
  • Six coke can boxes for left end
  • Six coke can boxes for right end
  • Eighteen soda can boxes for stairway

Day 1:

      Preparing Bottom and Middle Step Bases:


        Step 1 – Stuff each refrigerator coke can cardboard box with crumpled paper. Seal edges of boxes with glue and tape. Leave to dry.


        Step 2 – Fill Bottom Step Bases, Middle Step Bases, and Top Middle Step Bases with crumpled newspapers and seal box flaps with glue and tape. Leave to dry.


      Step 3 – Place newspaper beneath sealed boxes and create textured surface by pouring glue on sides of boxes. Leave to dry.

Day 2:

      Creating 2 Wall Facades, Frieze, Roof Comb, and Stairway:


        Step 4 – Glue 4 coke boxes one on top of each other and secure them with tape. Drip glue for texture. Leave to dry.


        Step 5 – Glue another 4 coke boxes one on top of each other and secure them with tape. Drip glue for texture. Leave to dry.


        Step 6 – Glue cardboard flaps of the frieze , but do not add crumpled paper as the weight on top of pyramid should be lighter.


        Step 7 – Glue 2 cardboard boxes without adding crumpled paper to create the roof comb and let dry.


        Step 8 – Glue 9 coke boxes

as illustrated

        and secure with tape to create the Stairway. Create another 9-step staircase and secure with tape. Leave both staircases to dry.


Day 3:

      Complete Stairway, Frieze, Roof Comb, and Right and Left Sides:


        Step 9 – Put stair cases together with glue and tape and let dry. Add texture by dripping glue on the structure.


        Step 10 – Add texture to Frieze and Roof Comb boxes by dripping glue.


        Step 11 – Create right and left sides as illustrated. Glue and tape to secure forms. Leave to dry


Day 4:

      Painting Boxes Black:


        Step 12 – Add texture to Right and Left Sides. Leave to dry.


      Step 13 – Paint Frieze, Roof Comb, Stairway, Step bases, and Wall Facades black. Allow to dry.

Day 5

      Painting Boxes White to Emphasize Texture:

        Step 14 – With bristle brush, scrub white paint on black boxes. The texture of the glue will begin to show. Allow to dry.


      Step 15 – Paint Right and Left sides black. When dry, rub white paint.

Day 6

      Building Pyramid and Painting it with Cool and Warm Colors:


        Step 16 – Build and glue structure together with Liquid Nails. Refer to Basic Structure Plan.


      Step 17 – Continue using bristle brushes to scrub various colors. Students began with cool colors, then applied tints of each. Students then added warm colors and added tints as well. The effect is bright and colorful.

Day 7

      Add Details:


        Step 18 – Add details to stairway, wall facades, frieze, and roof comb. I used Mayan glyphs on the stairway and chose other interesting designs from different Meso-American cultures.



E-Mail James Miller !

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