Every little bit counts, so if you can save money in the classroom by choosing recycled pieces for your art projects you can stretch your budget as far as possible. Choosing to use recycled pieces (upcycling) also helps send a green-friendly message in the classroom, as kids see you make eco conscious decisions for your program.
Baby Supplies (and packaging)
The plastic tubs that baby wipes come in are easy to reuse – and their stackable shape makes them ideal for storing things in small spaces, too. You can reuse a single tub to hold the pieces of a puzzle, math manipulatives or other small items for the classroom. These types of tubs also make good storage options for elementary school art supplies like pompons, pipe cleaners and popsicle sticks.
Old fashioned glass baby food jars are becoming more difficult to find, but gather enough so that you have one for each student and you have the beginning of a holiday or travel snow globe project. Glass items work best for older children for obvious reasons.
Paper Towel Rolls
The rolls that come inside toilet paper, paper towel and gift wrap rolls can be used in a variety of ways in the classroom. The cardboard is firm enough to hold its structure well and is easily painted, and these items can also be used during the actual creation of art to prop up pieces in progress and add structure to sculptural items.
The little metal tins that Altoids and other mints come in have long been a favorite of the altered and recycled art community, and they offer an ideal surface for classroom use as well. Don’t throw these containers out; the metal, hinged ones can be used to hold small items and be decorated to match a theme. Plastic mint containers (like those used for Tic Tac candy) make it easy to distribute glitter and other consumables without passing out the big container.
They may not be all that useful anymore, but most phone directories drop new additions once or twice a year. Don’t throw the old yellow pages away – use them in art class instead. The paper inside is thin and easily used for paper mache applications; you can also open the book and use it as a paint or glue palette, turning the pages to expose fresh paper as needed.
If your school uses mini milk cartons for lunches, these can easily be adapted to a variety of art projects, thanks to their nifty “houselike” shape. Use clean, dry boxes as the foundation for kid-sized gingerbread homes for Halloween or Christmas – or pair the boxes with mini pretzel sticks and build a Lincoln style log cabin on Presidents’ Day.
You don’t have to save these items every time they cross your path; but taking a good, long look at the things you would typically throw away can help you come up with some earth savvy recycled pieces for your next art project.
Check out our Recycled Art Projects Pinterest board for more great ways to upcycle in the classroom!