When my daughter started preschool last year, my life as a craft collector began. From rock monsters to paper plate people, our family grew by the day. While I always welcomed the creative creatures and inventions into our home, I was disappointed that many of them were adorned with things that had likely been purchased at dollar stores (i.e. pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, googly eyes), which in addition to being wasteful also made most of them choking hazards for my younger son (80% of the kids had baby brothers or sisters at home).
I was excited to learn about The Imagination Factory, a website dedicated to helping children turn solid waste into art. Marilyn Brackney, founder of The Imagination Factory, is an artist and educator out of Columbus, Indiana who has been reusing materials for art projects for many years. In 1996, she launched her website where she helps visitors learn how to use trash for activities such as drawing, collage, and sculpting. The site also offers educational information for kids, such as how to be a paper saver. Brackney believes that it is often the children who inspire the adults to be more environmentally conscious.
“I’m pleased to see that adults are starting to reuse and recycle, but I focus my attention on children because they will more easily adopt these habits and incorporate them into their lifestyles. Kids are the ones who will make a difference in helping to save the environment. “
Brackney’s main goal is to increase awareness of the shrinking landfill space by encouraging recycling in place of dumping. My favourite part about this site is the Trash Matcher, which helps parents and teachers design eco minded crafts and art activities around the solid waste they have in their homes and classrooms. I also love the Trash Pizza, which helps children visualize (in pie chart form) how much of each type of trash is buried in landfills each year.
“Our pizza will have “everything on it,” just like the ones you order at your local pizzeria. Of course, you wouldn’t want to eat THIS pizza, but it will help you become more aware of the amount of trash and garbage we throw away and the composition of our landfills. “
The Trashasaurus Rex, is The Imagination Factory’s mascot. This dinosaur is made entirely out of postconsumer solid waste and is stuffed with things such as plastic bags and containers. The mittens and gloves along the dinosaur’s body symbolize each person’s contribution to landfill waste.
The question of how to recycle crafts (eco minded or not) after they’re no longer fascinating still remains a mystery in my house. While the Trashasaurus Rex may be having its 16th anniversary, our own no-names have shorter shelf lives. It’s easy enough to put the paper parts in the recycling bin, but when they’ve got googly eyes and yarn glued on, the dissection can be quite grueling. Suggestions?
Related Posts about Eco Minded Arts and Crafts
- Trinkets for Imaginative Play
- Climate Change Through Children’s Eyes
- Teaching Kids About Trash
- Turning Trash into Treasure
Image courtesy of The Imagination Factory
[This post was written by Tara Benwell.]
Marilyn J. Brackney says
Thanks for your wonderful review of The Imagination Factory! You’re already doing great things for the environment, but I sense a little guilt at having to throw away recycled crafts. Here are some thoughts and a few suggestions that may help.
Please remember that if you reuse materials to make art and crafts, you’re already helping to save Mother Earth. New art supplies use natural resources, and they take energy to produce. And of course, items you buy at the store have to be shipped from the manufacturer or distributor, so reusing also helps save fuel.
If you really want to take apart your creations and recycle the paper and other materials after the works have lost their appeal, you can do that. Believe it or not, art teachers will welcome odd beads, feathers, and other items that are in good shape and can’t be recycled, but I have another idea.
Find a teacher who would be delighted to have your child’s work to keep on file. When they’re introducing creative activities, classroom and art teachers need good examples to show students. I always prefer showing my kids other students’ work instead of something I have created for the motivation or example.
Something else I thought about doing with my children’s artwork and papers that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away is to make a paper quilt and frame it for display. All you do is cut a large square from some section of the artwork, spelling test, or other paper. Then glue the squares onto a background so they look like a patchwork quilt. Finally, mat and frame the piece. Go to a thrift store to buy the frame, and make your work fit it. This is another example of reuse, and it helps support Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and others.
Making a paper quilt and saving the work in this way keeps the paper and other items out of the landfill, and you can enjoy kids’ art and writing for a long time. Besides, framing the piece shows you really value their work, and it will make them feel so good! I hope you find one or more of these suggestions helpful.
Those are some amazing ideas Marilyn! I especially love the idea of offering “samples” for previous teachers to keep on file. I’m sure our daughter’s Sunday School teacher would have loved that! I know for a fact that she spent her Saturday evenings building models when she should have been relaxing after a long week of work. We made a “quilt type” showcase over my daughter’s desk last year with some of our favourite scraps.
Jamie Ervin says
We turn pieces of old art projects into cards, postcards and picture collages for family and friends. Paintings on heavy paper cut up nicely for postcards, Grandparents LOVE any piece of art and will treasure having some for their house. The holidays are a perfect time to have the kids make an art collage, place it in a second hand frame (or one made from nature or recycled products) and gift Godparents, Grandparents, Aunts, etc… with the treasure.
In the meantime, we collect all of our artwork on hemp cord strung along the hallway walls. I use clothes pins to hang it up. It makes a great decoration and the kids LOVE seeing their artwork hanging there.
These ideas are so much fun. Thanks! I’m really looking forward to kindergarten crafts coming in now!
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