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Activity: Create an Ocean Cleanup Sensory Bin

Today’s activity is inspired by William Trost Richards’s painting Along the Shore. Learn about the painting, then make your own homemade sensory bin while learning about how we can work together to keep oceans clean! This project is easy to make, and we encourage you to use objects already in your home. 


William Trost Richards, Along the Shore, 1903, oil on canvas, 39 3/16 × 78 1/2 in. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2009.1. Photography by Steven Watson.


Look Closer:  

  • Spend a few minutes looking at this painting. How does it make you feel? Can you picture yourself standing in front of the waves? 
  • William Trost Richards’s choice to paint the ocean is unique because of how fast waves come and go. He had to observe the crashing waves in the moment but painted the scene in his studio. Notice how realistic the waves look. Does it look like a sunny day or a stormy one? 
  • Pollution of our oceans continues to be a large problem. Plastic, glass, and so much more ends up in the ocean, causing the animals and the environment harm. Think about the things you use every day that end up in the trash. Could these items be recycled? How can we work together to keep the earth clean? Where is your favorite place to visit?
  • Research clean-up programs in your community to lend a helping hand!


Activity: Create an Ocean Cleanup Sensory Bin


  • 2 containers, one large and one small
  • Rice
  • Blue food coloring
  • White vinegar  
  • Cookie sheet 
  • Colored paper
  • Stick glue/tape
  • Scissors
  • Markers
  • Recyclable materials/toys 











Step 1: Start by mixing one cup of rice and one teaspoon of white vinegar. Add drops of blue food coloring until it is the desired color. Continue this process depending on how much rice you want in the container. 

Step 2: Spread the mixture in a thin layer on a lined cookie sheet. Allow rice to dry fully.









Step 3: Decorate your bin! Draw out waves on colored paper, cut out, then attach with tape on the back wall of the bin. 









Step 4: Gather “trash” from around your house. Plastic, paper, or anything that doesn’t belong in the ocean! (I used paper straws and glass marbles.)

Step 5: Combine! Place the rice in the bottom of the container then add your recyclables and any ocean creatures you have. If you don’t have any toys, draw them! Place the smaller container in the corner to sort trash out of the water. 

Helpful Hint: Think about other nature scenes you could create. Dye rice green and decorate the bin with trees to create a forest! 



Have fun exploring! Share your sensory bin with us on social media – tag #crystalbridges on Instagram.


Written by Marlie Allgood, art instructor, Crystal Bridges.


Special thanks to our sponsors:

Youth and Family programming is supported in part by AMP Sign & Banner, Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services, Juan, Marcy and Joaquin Camacho, The Coca-Cola Company, iHeart Media, JTH Productions, Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Pinnacle Car Services, Procter & Gamble, Gordon and Carole Segal, The Simmons Family Fund, and ViacomCBS Consumer Products.

Education and Learning is supported in part by Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, The Northern Trust Company, Pamela and Wayne Garrison, Doug and Shelley McMillon, Jack and Melba Shewmaker Family, Neff and Scarlett Basore, Galen and Debi Havner, Lance and Sharon Beshore, Cardinal Four Foundation, Colgate-Palmolive Company, Harry Cornell, Cox Communications, Dorothy Hurt, J.M. Smucker Company, Kimberly-Clark, Nice-Pak Products, Inc., The Russell Berrie Foundation, Stephen and Claudia Strange, Felix and Margaret Wright.


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