Costa Rican OxCart

My 4th graders created these fun and colorful carts for our Tropical Rainforest Unit.
The traditional oxcart, or carreta,is Costa Rica’s most famous type of craft. 


From the mid-nineteenth century, oxcarts were used to transport coffee beans from Costa Rica’s central valley over the mountains to Puntarenas on the Pacific coast, a journey requiring ten to fifteen days. The oxcarts used spokeless wheels, a hybrid between the disc used by the Aztec and the spoked wheel introduced by the Spanish, to cut through the mud without becoming bogged down. In many cases, oxcarts were a family’s only means of transport and often served as a symbol of social status.  
The tradition of painting and decorating oxcarts started in the early twentieth century. 
Originally, each region of Costa Rica had its own particular design, enabling the identification of the driver’s origin by the painted patterns on the wheels. 


Step 1 
Students create from previously painted paper: a rectangle shape for the main part of the cart as well as a circle for the wheel.

Step 2

Divide the body of the cart into sections with pencil then add a strips of paper for decoration. Outline with sharpie all the pencil designs.

Step 3 
Fill patterns with bright colored oil pastels. If time allows add fun sequins and adornments to complete your cart.

The students really enjoyed creating their patterned ox carts. I had many comment how much fun they had making these!
Painted Paper – 6 x 12 inches for body of cart
4 inch square paper for wheel shape
strips of paper
black sharpies
oil pastels

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  • Reply
    gretchen buwalda
    July 10, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    These are fabulous. The subject is would be very motivating. I imagine the students thoroughly enjoyed this creative process. I'm pinning, many thanks.

  • Reply
    Frau Klex
    July 21, 2013 at 10:49 am

    That is a awesome project! Thank you for sharing. Searching for subjects for my next thematic priority “color”, I'm glad to get such a nice idea!

  • Reply
    MS Frugal
    July 22, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    I just love reading your blog! It's like a social studies lesson and very accessible art project wrapped into one great blog post. Thanks so much!

  • Reply
    Cassie Stephens
    July 25, 2013 at 4:07 am

    Can I just tell you how AMAZING I think you are?! SERIOUSLY!! Stop it, you ROCK! I'm so stoked cuz I just found your viking mural and I AM SO STEALING YOUR IDEAS! Giving total and complete credit to you, of course. Seriously. You's amazin'.

  • Reply
    July 25, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    Awwww Shucks!
    Steal away because I am totally stealing your clock project and many more! 🙂

  • Reply
    Socorro Kruse - PhD by Publication
    August 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    I adore art history lessons. You never know what you might learn about. I love this project. All the bright colors are so much fun to work with.

    Please visit My Webblog

  • Reply
    Pam Skojec
    September 10, 2013 at 3:50 am

    Wonderful, as usual!! You never let me down!

  • Reply
    Tica Enexilio
    April 15, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    I am from Costa Rica and these are great! I can not believe this is the only craft I found on making carts. No Costa Rican had thought about something like this! Great creativity thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    April 17, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Thanks!!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Deirdre B.
    January 16, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    Hi! I just tried this and the students really loved the photos I found of the ox carts in contests and the beautiful ox. I added an ox at the front. Really great lesson, serious fun!
    Thanks sooo much! giving total cedit to you on lesson!

  • Reply
    Meaghan O'Brien
    January 30, 2016 at 1:03 am

    Hey! I just did this with my 4th graders here in Hawaii. We're doing a cultural study on Costa Rica and they loved it! Thanks for the idea!

  • Reply
    Claudia Weller
    March 9, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    Wow, really cool, love these oxcart designs

  • Reply
    Claudia Weller
    March 9, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    Wow, really cool, love these oxcart designs

  • Reply
    Kate T.
    February 18, 2019 at 9:02 am

    Did this project with my 4th graders for Spanish class to coincide with their rainforest unit and they came out so great – thank you for sharing! We enhanced the project by gluing a row of coffee beans across the top of each cart!:)

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