Upcycling, that is creating art as well as objects like flowerpots out of empty containers and used materials, helps decrease human-made trash. These craft projects are fun for all ages, and something that museum educators can easily incorporate into programs geared towards children and families.
The need for environmentally conscientious practices and re-use of materials are concepts that both kids and adults can understand. In addition, together kids and family members and/ or friends have the ability to help the environment through relatively simple actions, for instance upcycling. Programs with discussions and crafts facilitated by a museum educator also have the potential to encourage conversations about complex physical and socioeconomic concerns the participants face as well as environmental issues that broadly effect people across the globe. Examples might include, associating low-income families’ need for healthy food and safe housing, with the necessities required for the bears depicted in the painting (below), specifically forested areas, clean water, and food supplies.
This blog post is intended to enable museum educators to be better able to create and facilitate programs that spur diverse audiences to become advocates for environmentally conscious practices and policies.
Spark!Lab, Smithsonian American History Museum
- A space designed for children 6 to 12 years old. Activities encourage children and families to be creative and collaborative while they participate in problem solving that nurtures exploring, testing, experimenting, and inventing skills.
- ‘“With the current theme “Planet,” visitors engage in hands-on activities focused on building a planet-friendly building, helping clean up the ocean, moving water from place to place without pipes, testing renewable energy, powering up a solar tree, and “upcycling” e-waste (reusing discarded material to create a product of a higher quality or value than the original).”’
Earth Day Poetry Contest (yearly), Tucson, Arizona
- Sponsored by the Coati Kids Club of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
- For grades K-6.
ReDress: Upcycled Style
- A Traveling Exhibition.
- Eighteen of Nancy Judd’s enchanting couture fashion sculptures made from trash are traveling to museums and art centers around the United States.
Egg Carton Flowers
Materials: egg carton (paper egg carton), paint ( acrylic craft paints suggested), paint brush, assorted beads, glue gun, cereal box (empty), green construction paper, scissors, glue stick, string. For information see: http://www.kitchencounterchronicle.com/may-flowers/
Back to School Fun – Milk Carton School Bus Craft
For instructions and information see: http://www.momto2poshlildivas.com/2011/08/back-to-school-fun-milk-carton-school.html
A beautiful discussion piece:
Plastic Bottle Flowers
For more information see: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/287100743/upcycled-plastic-tiara-hair-accessory/
Brainstorming, planning, and critical thinking exercises for educators:
Image and theme(s) analysis:
How might the imagery in the painting (Study for Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, 1861, SAAM) and the historical context be used for a 5th grade lesson on American (US) environmental history as well as present-day environmental issues? For a related lesson plan example see: http://americanart.si.edu/education/pdf/envisioning_manifest_destiny.pdf
Practice scenarios for educators:
Summary of audiences: elementary school aged children (ca. 5-12) accompanied by adult family and/ or friends.
Instructions: Divide into four groups.
- Group 1 audience: kids 5-12 yrs. accompanied by middle-class American grandparents ages 50-75.
- Group 2 audience: underprivileged pre-K kids 4-5 yrs. accompanied by teenage siblings, babysitters, or parents ages 18-25 yrs.
- Group 3 audience: lower-middle-class kids 5-12 yrs. accompanied by American parents ages 21-30.
- Group 4 audience: pre-K kids 4-5 yrs. with affluent American grandparents ages 50-75.
- As a group pick one of the four images (below).
- Brainstorm how you could facilitate a conversation about environmental issues (soil erosion caused by over farming, deforestation, loss of animal habitats, industrialism, human-created pollution, etc.).
- What upcycling craft or project could a museum educator create with your audience during a 1-hour program (in addition to the crafts mentioned above, making recycled paper and drawing activities are popular)?
- Briefly tell the class about your objectives and program.
For citations and more information about this blog post please see the following PDF: walcutt_art-the-environment-and-upcycling