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Beyond Recycling: Repurpose and Reuse: Getting started

This is a workshop designed to show students how to create usable items by recycling and reusing.

Initial Activity

Beyond Recycling Workshop - Day 1

1. Before students arrive, the teacher will have several boxes of different recyclable materials placed around the workspace.  There should be one box containing plastic bottles of all sizes, another of glass bottles or jars or all sizes, another tin cans, another cardboard, another newspapers, another with magazines, etc.  

2.  The teacher will begin with a brief discussion on the amount of waste that is represented by these boxes and how it’s important to recycle

3.  The teacher will then ask students to switch their thinking to creatively reusing these recyclable items.  Teacher will pick up an item to recycle and say, “I think this could be a ______.  All it needs is a little tweaking.”  The teacher will then give example of what he/she would do to alter this item in order to change it into a usable item.

4.  Students will be asked to walk around the room and look at the recycling items.  As they are doing so, they should try to think of a way to repurpose one of the items seen.  

5.  Students will be asked to sit in a group of three.  Once there students will be given these instructions:  “You’ve now had a chance to look at the different recyclable items around the room.  Think about one of the items you saw and how you would repurpose this recyclable into a usable item.  When your group number is called, go grab your item and take it back to your group.”

6.  Group numbers are called and each students brings back the item of choice to the group.

7.  The teacher then asks each student to share with group members how he/she would repurpose the chosen item.  Group members are asked to listen to the ideas and offer encouragement and additional ideas.

8.  Students are then introduced to the overall purpose of this workshop:  repurposing and reusing recyclable items.  Future sessions will focus on different ways to create new, usable items out of what many see as trash.

9.  At the end of this session, students may choose to return the chosen item to the original bin OR students may take the item and work on repurposing it during future workshop time or on their own.

Creative Thinking

21st Century skills address in this workshop:   

  • Critical thinking and problem solving: Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis.  Reflect critically on learning experiences and processes. Solve different kinds of non-familiar problems in both conventional and innovative ways.  Students will use what they know about certain products and exeriment to find new uses from them.  Students will enage in problem solving skills as they assess what works and what needs to be changed.
  •  Creativity and Innovation:  Students will use prior knowledge of an item to create something complete new.  Students will design artistic elements using recycled items. Students will elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate their own ideas in order to improve and maximize creative efforts.
  •  Communication and Collaboration:  Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts. Use communication for a range of purposes. Utilize multiple media and technologies, and know how to judge their effectiveness a priori as well as assess their impact.  Students will work together to share new ideas and gather information from others.  Students will also create how-to tutorials that can be posted to assist others with the projects.
  • Scientific and Numerical Literacy:  Students will need a knowledge of how things work and how it could work better.  Students will need to be precise with their measurements.
  •  Information, Communications and Technology Literacy:  Use technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate information.  Students will use this libguide as a starting point for their explorataion.  They will also contribute to the libguide with their photos and videos.

  •  Flexibility and Adaptability: Deal positively with praise, setbacks and criticism. Set goals with tangible and intangible success criteria. Go beyond basic mastery of skills and/or curriculum to explore and expand one’s own learning and opportunities to gain expertise. Reflect critically on past experiences in order to inform future progress.  Students will need probably experiance set backs.  They will need to be flexiable and move ahead with a better solution.  .  

  •  Initiative and Self-Direction:  Students will drive their own direction.  They will need to be self motivated to create something meaningful to them.This workshop allows students the oppurtunity to model a project after the suggestions given, but also allows them freedom to explore what they are interested in.
  • Global Awareness:  Students will appreciate how valuable the Earth's resources are and make some choices about what they can do to sustain them.
  • Entrepreneurial Literacy:  Students may choose to create a business and market their new product.
  •  Health Literacy: Students will demonstrate behaviors that foster healthy, active lifestyles for individuals and the benefit of society.  Students will learn the value of recycling, reusing and—most importantly—reduction, and the environmental benefits of such actions.
  • Environmental Literacy:  Students will demonstrate knowledge and understanding of society’s impact on the natural world.  Students will create solutions that will lesson their impact on the world around them.

Information taken from the Partnership for 21st Century skills.


A Note to the Teacher

Suggested steps for this workshop:

1.  Complete the initial activity

2.  Focus on a new area of recycled items to create per week (ie. during week 1 focus on paper and cardboard, week 2 CD's, etc.) *Students may create new items based on directions available and/or make their own creation with that week's item(s)

3. Take photographs of students creating items throughout the workshop

4.  A final workshop week could focus on the students creating something completely new from recycled items available

5.  Encourage students to be videotaped as they explain how to create one of their recycled masterpieces

6.  Post photos and demonstration videos to the Student Gallery

Overall, after the initial activity, the teacher may decide how many days the workshop will run.  The possibilities for what the students could create are endless! Take one, two or all ideas from the additional tabs on this LIBGuide to organize your own Beyond Recycling workshop.

Workshop extension ideas:

1.  Take a closer look at what goes into the recycling process and why it is important.  A local recycling plant owner could be asked to come speak, or the group could take a field trip to the recycling plant.

2.  Invite local artists who specialize in recycled art to come speak and share their artwork and explain what inspires them.

3.  Take a video or virtual tour of a recycled art park or museum.

4.  Visit a recycled art museum or art show in your area.

5.  Explore other recycled activities and projects.

Creative Outcome

Students will have the ability to not only creatively think about how to repurpose and reuse recyclable items, but they will also have the opportunity to create their own artwork work to display in the library, be featured on the LIBGuide's Student Gallery, and eventually take home to share with their family.  

Students will have three choices when creating recycled artwork:  to create artwork from their own imagination, to make a specific art project (directions provided), or a combination of both.  

As mentioned earlier, the possibilities are endless!