Go Green Recycled Art Club

This fall I had the pleasure of launching an art club for kids devoted exclusively to using recyclable materials and found objects from nature. We kicked off the Go Green Recycled Art Club with one simple question: How many things can you make out of a coffee sleeve? Then I presented the students with over 200 coffee sleeves I collected from my weekly visits to Peets Coffee and Tea. It turns out my jasmine green tea obsession had numerous benefits beyond the tea itself...

We used coffee sleeves to make an entire ocean aquarium, filled to the brim with clown fish, octopus, sea monsters, killer whales, crabs, sea sponges, underwater castles, tiki huts, and more. Most impressive was the way the children experimented with the coffee sleeves–cutting, reshaping, folding, twisting, and combining the sleeves to investigate the creative possibilities.

And the best part? We spent less than $50 on all supplemental materials like paint, tape, and hot glue! Because we used mostly recycled materials, the supplies we bought lasted nearly 30 classes, or 4 months.

Now entering our second semester of classes at the Renaissance School of Arts & Sciences in Portland, Oregon, I am blown away by what these amazingly creative students have done with an assortment of recyclable materials. The students have turned take-out containers into 3-D bird habitats, maple seeds into colorful, googly-eyed creatures, and paper towel rolls into swirling staircases and watchtowers. With the perfect blend of form and freedom, they generate art that breaks the mold while triumphantly shattering the idea that certain materials can only be used in certain ways. It's more than thinking outside the box–it's as if they have discovered there was no box to begin with.

As I plan additional projects for the coming months, I turn to my ever-expanding stash of recyclable materials at home for new inspiration. For as my students constantly remind me, it's incredible what you can make from a pile of junk....and a few ounces of creativity!

Download the Go Green 5-pack for more recycled art projects you can do with your children and students!