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My colleagues, and family cringe when they empty Pringles cans, toilet paper rolls and bottles of vinegar. They know I will swarm into the trash like a group of hornets snatching the prized possessions to ‘save for a project’. I am a huge hoarder. I save every single item that I ‘might’ need and I secretly delight when I have saved enough of one item for each student in my class, so I can design a project around it.
The fact is I think every teacher at some point saves items ‘just because’ especially when you know if you don’t the cost of a project comes out of your pocket.
I like to think I am resourceful, albeit a bit eccentric, when it comes to creating projects to go along with units. I do know however that there are four things that I have an abundance of that I repurpose on a continual basis: crayons, markers, paper and watercolors.
There are so many things to be done with these items! I love feeling like I am not wasting supply money, especially when many of the items I have purchased with my own money. I also love that my students get to see that items can be taken from ‘trash to treasure’ and that I might have possibly planted the seed of frugalness.
Crayons: One of my favorites! I do three things to repurpose crayons. One is shaving them down and using them for craft projects. Kids love to use sharpeners, so this is a great activity, especially for the fidgety ones that need to keep little hands busy. I will sort crayons by color and set up a sharpening station. When kids finish their work or feel like they need a break, I’ll send them to that station. Once crayons are peeled and sharpened I’ll place the shavings in baggies to use for craft projects. We’ve made stained glass, the earth, all leaves and so forth with these shavings and an iron. The kids love these projects.
The second thing I do with leftover crayons is, of course, the muffin pan crayons. I let the kids make the muffin crayons and take a set home. You have to be careful though with this project, though. If you overcook the crayons, the pigment will evaporate and you will be left with a muffin-shaped piece of wax.
The third thing I do to repurpose crayons is to let my kids make different shaped crayons in our Crayola crayon maker. There are several different molds that can be purchased to go with this piece and the kids love it!
Markers: My kids love this project too. You know all of those markers that still work a little, but not enough to really color nicely? Pop the tips off of those puppies and drop them into a bottle of white glue (you know, the glue that you have condensed from one bottle to another). Let it sit overnight and you will have beautifully colored glue! I use this glue for my kids to outline pictures with, make designs on paper and other art projects. If you want a darker color, just add more tips. You can also pop the tips off and place them in water to create a beautiful array of watercolors. Just be very careful with your marker tip to water ratio.
Paper: Oh my. I get fliers and catalogs and coloring pages and notes and just paper in general that my kids have used. I have a ton of animals in my room. I used to go to the pet store each week to get bedding. Now I have a student who is in charge of shredding all of the paper. I have a safety shredder for the students to use. Every other day the shredder will do his or her job and the animal helpers will have fresh bedding to use. If your school is large enough you can also request an ATIBI container that will recycle your paper products and will send your school a check.
Watercolors: Nothing like getting out watercolors and the red is all used up. I tell my kids that their watercolors are not to be thrown away just because they are missing one or two colors. At the end of each school year, I have students place the supplies they do not want to keep in a box. Usually, there are several sets of watercolors. The pods pop right out of the container. I sort the colors into baggies and when a student runs out of a color pod, I replace it with one that I have saved. You can also place the pods into the water and create your own ‘watercolors’, but once again be careful of your pod to water ratio.
What items do you try to recycle or repurpose in your classroom?