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Soda cups make Christmas trees

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When I was teaching, the teacher who had an office next to mine would start off his day with an extra-large drink from Whatta-Burger. These drinks come in a thin plastic cup that is shaped like a cone so that it can fit into a drink holder in a car. It was a free resource for an art teacher, because all I had to do was ask him to put his empty cup in the sink. Then I’d rinse it out, let it air dry, and saved them until I had enough for a class.

The cups were used to make Christmas trees with second and third grade. It allowed the students to practice advanced cutting skills and decision making. Schools that don’t celebrate Christmas can tie the project to a discussion of modern art, using examples of metal sculptures that are very simple in design, yet look like a subject. For examples of contemporary artists, see

To make a Christmas tree from a cup, you need

  • XL drink cups from fast food or quick shops
  • All-purpose glue
  • Scissors
  • Green paper
  • Copies of the pattern on green paper
  • Small stickers or scraps of colored paper punched into ornament shapes
  • Gold star stickers (one inch or larger) or star shapes punched from stiff paper

Make copies of the pattern on the same color of green paper that is going to be used to cover the tree.

Fold a sheet of paper in half length-wise (hot dog way). Open the sheet, and cut along the fold to make two long pieces of paper. Cut down the center of each piece in an irregular zig zag line.

Stand the cup upside down so that it looks like a cone. Wrap a piece of paper, straight side up, around the bottom of the cup until it doesn’t fit. The cup is curved, and the paper is straight, so the circumference of the top of the paper is smaller than the circumference of the bottom of the strip. This means the strips can’t go across the cup horizontally, but will have to slant. (This is the problem the student has to solve, and the decision they have to make) Cut the paper, and glue it to the cup. Repeat until the cup is completely covered.

Cut out the pattern to make the top of the tree. It is a half circle with a zig zag curved edge. Curl the half circle into a cone by matching the straight edges. Overlap the edge by about ¼ inch, and glue. Glue the cone to the top of the cup.

If desired, curl up the point of the zig zag edges to make the tree more fluffy.

If desired, use stickers or scraps of paper that are cut or punched into ornament shapes to decorate the tree.

Cut two star shapes from yellow paper, or use gold star stickers, and put one shape on the tip of the cone on the front, and one on the back. Glue the points of the star together.

Sunshine State Standards

VA.A.1.2.1 uses and organizes two-dimensional and three-dimensional media, techniques, tools and processes to produce works of art that are derived from personal experience, observation, or imagination.


  1. The student used the expected amount of skill in cutting zig zag lines with scissors
  2. The student cut on the lines of the pattern.
  3. The student solved the problem of how to attach the strips to the cup so that the cup was completely covered with green paper on the outside.
  4. The student used care and safety when using glue and scissors.


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