Reduce, Reuse, and Create Art!

Warm Up: From Trash to Treasure
     1. Split students into groups of 2-4 and give each group one of the reusable items you collected (sock, box, glass jars, cans, newspaper, etc.)

     2. Give students 10 minutes to brainstorm in their groups and come up with as many ways as possible that they could reuse their item and make it into something new. (For example, a glass jar could be turned into a vase, a candleholder, bookends, storage for food, and a storage place for spare change.)

     3. Encourage students to be as creative and think of both practical and wacky uses for their item. When they have finished, have them share with the rest of the class what they came up with for their item.

Activity One: Can a Purple Crayon be Green? An Introduction to Green Art
     1. Introduce students to the concept of green art. Green art means doing art in an environmentally sustainable and responsible manner. There are a variety of different ways to do this, including making art out of reusable materials, just like in the warm up! Ask students if they can think of ways to create art out of the items they saw during the warm up. What other recycled items can they think of that could be turned into art?

     2. Provide students with these ideas for eco-friendly art supplies:
               • Use 100% post-consumer recycled paper
               • Choose crayons made from soybean oil instead of petroleum. These are biodegradable and made from a renewable resource, as opposed to petroleum, which comes from a non-renewable resource.
               • Buy pencils made from sustainably harvested wood and recycled newspapers
               • Make your own art supplies! Use scrap paper from around the house and create your own paint out of cornstarch, flour, and pudding to make a masterpiece.
               • Use non-VOC paints and other non-toxic supplies.
See if your students can come up with any other ideas for eco-friendly supplies.

     3. Ask students to think about what art supplies are traditionally made of, and how they might affect their health. Besides being environmentally friendly and using sustainable products, green art is about using supplies that are non-toxic and healthy for humans as well. Although it may not seem this way, art supplies can have chemicals in them such as VOCs and PBTs that are harmful to human health1. So, by buying supplies that are eco-friendly, you save both the environment and yourself!

     4. Use The Heidelberg Project in Detroit, MI as an example of artwork that is done using old materials. Tyree Guyton started the Heidelberg Project in 1986 in response to the poverty and despair he witnessed on the street he grew up on. Using a paintbrush and the garbage he picked up out of vacant lots, Tyree transformed the street into an art extravaganza. This allowed him not only to make the street more aesthetically appealing, but he also used it as a message to bring attention to the abandoned and under-resourced areas of inner city Detroit. Pictures of the project and more information can be found here: and Project the pictures onto a screen and have students look at them to get inspiration for their own projects. Also ask them to consider how the images affect them emotionally. What type of message do they think Tyree is trying to send? What are some negative feelings they get from the art? What are some positive? Focus on art as a way to create a social message and instill emotion in others.

Activity Two: Reduce, Reuse, and Create Art!
     1. Now that students have learned about green art, have them create their own! Instruct students to brainstorm a message or viewpoint they want their art to convey, and have them create their project through reusable items they find from home, school, work, etc. If they need to use items such as crayons, paint, or pencils for their project, suggest they use the non-toxic or recycled kind. Encourage creativity and originality!

     2. Once they have finished their project, have students complete Reproducible #1- Reduce, Reuse, Create Art - Reflection.

Activity Three: Peer Presentation
     1. Have students present their artwork to their peers, giving an explanation about why they chose to create it and what message they intended to send. (There are many ways to accomplish peer presentation: students can present to their other classmates, their peers, parents, or faculty and staff. Have students set up a display outside the cafeteria during lunch, or invite another class to view their work. Or, have faculty, parents, or students that have time off come in during the class hour or after shool to view their projects.)

Wrap Up:
     1. Go around the room and have each student describe one item they used in their project that would have been thrown away otherwise. Did they use any other green art supplies, such as recycled pencils or soybean based crayons?

     2. Ask the class if this project helped them see ordinary objects in a different light? From now on will they be able to find more uses for objects that they would otherwise throw away?

Extension: Sharing with the Community
Have students display their artwork at a community center or somewhere else where other community members can view it. Team up with local artists and set up a show dedicated to recycled artwork.