As you teach body systems, give the students a plan sheet that has a line drawing of the organs. Discuss the organs and the system interactions.  You may even want students to write the function of each organ on the plan sheet.  Have students color the organs as they envision their painted shirt or apron to look.  Organs do NOT have to be depicted in realistic colors; In fact, I encourage students to express their individuality.  Some will use school colors, some will paint their guts camouflaged so they can wear them deer hunting, while others will use all primary and neon colors.  You can be sure no two projects will be exactly alike. Have extra copies of the plan sheet available for students to experiment with color.
























Painting Week

Depending on the length of your class periods, allow two to three hours (three to four 45 minute periods) to get shirts distributed, set up, and organs painted. After paint has had a chance to completely dry, have students use a black fine-point permanent sharpie marker to outline and label the organs. The planning sheet will come in handy for this part! When students are finished outlining and labeling - assess the shirt, checking for completeness and proper labeling. You can write the grade on the plan sheet and collect for recording purposes. Some students will also use the marker to write appropriate sayings on the back such as “No Guts, No Glory”, “It takes guts to wear this shirt”, or “Life is full of choices. Have the guts to go for it”.  They have fun thinking of sayings for the back!

Guts Project Organization

Introduce project choices with the Letter to Parent. (Letter may be edited and customized before printing.)


Documenting Project choice (suggestion)

Students often are given a choice of the wearable project or a  standard 2D model. Print a class roster and indicate shirt size, apron, or 2D model next to each student's name.



Carefully tally your tshirts (by size) or aprons and complete the Guts Order Form>

Orders may be faxed, phoned, or placed on-line.  All ordering information can be found here.




















Teaching in a Low Socio-Economic Status School District  Personal testimony - In the years that I have done this, in school districts with 80%+ low socio-economic disadvantaged, I have not had trouble collecting $5 for the cost of the shirt.  I have had teachers/administration donate money for students who failed to bring in their $5.

Tip: Some schools add an extra dollar to pay for paint and brushes or to make up the difference for those who are financially unable to pay.










Painting guts with fabric paint

Supplies (based on class of 24):

> assorted size paintbrushes (stiff bristles work best)

>small cans for rinsing brushes (empty vegetable cans, fill 1/3 with water,work well)

> Fabric paint (assorted colors) No black paint as black marker is used for labeling. *(See note below)

> recycled card board or file folder(to put inside shirt to keep paint from bleeding through to the back)

> small plastic plates (for paint)

> jumbo paper clips to secure cardboard from sliding (2 per student)

    hangars (for projects to hang during drying time)

> Paper towels or cloth rags for drying brushes

     fine point black sharpies (for labeling and re-outlining organs after paint is dry)

* Note - I like using fabric PAINT on the guts shirts.  The guts project is also available as an apron (one size fits most).  Markers that are labeled for FABRIC and Sharpie brand permanent markers work well on aprons.  Some teachers report success using fabric markers for the shirts as well.  There are benefits to using markers such as projects are dry to the touch almost immediately and can be stacked at the end of each class period eliminating the need for hangers and drying space. Also, you eliminate the need for paintbrushes, cans, plastic plates, hangars, and paper towels if you are "painting" organs with fabric markers.  A few fabric marker disadvantages: markers will dry out quickly if not tightly capped when not in use, students complain the markers "pull" the t-shirt fabric and makes painting the large organs difficult (no "pulling" problem on the apron fabric), and marker colors are not as intense and come in fewer color choices than paints.  I suggest you experiment yourself to see if you have a preference.

Painting steps

1. Distribute the shirts, according to size ordered.


2. Immediately instruct students to print first and last name on the inside bottom seam.


3. Give each student a piece of recycled cardboard that will fit inside the shirt to prevent the paint from bleeding through to the back side when painting. (Note: Our school had lots of book covers available since most teachers use class sets.  The book covers worked great!)


4. Demonstrate how to paper clip the shirt and cardboard to prevent cardboard from sliding out when the shirts are hung up to dry.


5. Give students a small plastic plate onto which a small amount of fabric paint can be squeezed (no bigger than a dime).  Note: My students sit at tables in groups of 4 so I have four plastic plates on the table.  The same plate can be used throughout the day by different students without washing if students stick to the “No more than a dime size amount of paint at a time” rule.  Overnight, the paint on the plates will dry and you can use the same ones the next day.  Eventually, you may want to replace some of the plastic plates with fresh ones.


6. Have students spread their shirts out on the table, being careful not to knock over the cans of water into which you have placed an assortment of paintbrushes.  Note: One can of water with 3-4 paintbrushes for every two students is sufficient.  An easy organ to paint is the liver so I ask for a student to volunteer their shirt as a demonstration.  I look at the student’s plan sheet to see what he/she has painted the liver, select that color from the counter, and squeeze a dime-size amount on to his or her plate.  I chose a paintbrush from the can, dry it with a paper towel or rag (to prevent “bleeding” of the paint), and begin painting the liver.  Rinse the brush in the can of water, and dry with towel, before changing colors.  Do NOT allow paint to dry on brushes.


7. About 8-10 minutes before the class end, tell students to get to a stopping point and pass out hangars.  I would have anywhere from 80 – 150 students per day working on a project so I strung clothes line across the room.  Each line was a designated period.  Having students put their name in marker on the bottom seam, made it easy for them to retrieve their shirt the next class period to continue painting.


8. Rinse paintbrushes and add fresh water to the cans to prepare for the next class.


Be sure to read "Care For Wearables Painted with Fabric and Sharpie Brand Permanent Markers".


Care and Wash Instructions

Guts Letter to Parents (Word) >

Guts Plan Sheet (pdf) >

Guts Plan Sheet  with Key (jpg) >

Sole source documents (link)


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