Art teachers are master innovators. Improvising in a pinch is also one of our many superpowers. Raise your hand if you’re with me on this one. You can make masterpieces from recycled materials that others can’t even dream of and chances are, you’re always ready for the challenge.
But despite being able to turn trash into treasure, you might not have space to store the donations that end up outside your door or the cabinets full of supplies left behind.
You’re not alone. Trust me. I’ve been there and that’s why I thought it would be helpful to share our list of the top five recycled materials to have in your art room with you to help make some sense of it all.
Recycled materials can be used throughout the year to help teach resourcefulness by showing students new uses for everyday items. During the month of April and especially around Earth Day, incorporating recycled materials into projects can also reinforce ideas like conservation and sustainability.
Here is our list of the top five recycled materials to have in your art room:
Broken down boxes, both shipping and common packaging from food items like cereal are great to have on hand. Cereal boxes are easier for students to cut and are a great material for making templates for younger students to trace. Cut cardboard from shipping boxes can be used for a variety of purposes, from constructing 3D sculptures to making tools for stamping and scraping paint. Here is a great video on how to cut cardboard.
Plastic Lids and Other Containers
Lids make great circle tracers and having a collection in a variety of different sizes can make drawing perfect circles quick and easy. Some lids can also be used as individual paint palettes for acrylic paints. Once the paints dry, they’ll peel right off and the lid can be used again. The corresponding containers, depending on the size can also be good things to hang onto. For example, clean yogurt cups make great individual water containers or can be used to store mixed paints or glazes that can’t be poured back into their bottles.
Empty Toilet Paper & Paper Towel Tubes
Not only can these be used to make 3D sculptures, they can also be used for stamping. Dip the ends in paint to print a circle or manipulate it by bending to print an oval or a heart or try cutting it to create petals for a flower or fireworks.
Newspaper & Magazines
Newspaper is obviously great for messy projects, but it’s nice to have available for papier-mache projects, too. Along with newspaper, magazines are great for collage projects. Having a selection of pre-approved pages or images on hand can also be used for quick, early-finisher drawing prompts.
Egg cartons make great paint palettes and table supply holders for things like sequins, beans, gems, buttons, etc. but they can also be turned into interesting 3D sculptures.
Whether you are supplying your school’s Makers’ Space or preparing the next generation of activists, recycled materials are great to have in an art room.
Not sure you can save up enough materials yourself? Add a sentence in the school newsletter and you’ll have what you need in no time and probably more than you ever wanted.
Think of another material that you’d include on this list? No problem. Swap it out or add it on.
Your list might change from year to year but these top five recycled materials will likely be the constants that you’ll learn to count on.
You can find lessons that use recycled materials to help students explore the relationships between living things and their environments in the Ecology and Conservation Bundle, complete with standards and assessments in the Sparklers’ Club. Sign up for the waitlist HERE.
Share the recycled materials that you like to use in the comments below.