Look What Trash Can Create!
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.5 Recognize the wise use of resources as <i>stewardship</i>.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe the task and the student role.

Learners research the environmental effect of crayons and their own power to make an impact. They collect gently used crayons from restaurants and other places in the community. They sort them by color, repackage them for re-use, add a kind note, and donate the new packages where they identify a need. This elementary lesson includes an art lesson with crayons, pictured here. This lesson is enhanced when it involves collaboration between different age groups.

PrintTwo or Three 30-minute sessions

The learners will...

  • state the environmental and community benefits of recycling crayons.
  • define philanthropy and identify what they can do.
  • crayons
  • art paper - 11" x 14" white
  • materials for repackaging crayons (may be designed by other partners), such as rubber bands, homemade paper envelopes, paper lunch bags, cloth bags, or ribbons (avoid plastic bags for sustainability)
Home Connection: 

Send a note home informing families about the project and ways to support. Sample below: 

Dear Families,

We are participating in a used Crayon Collection to benefit the environment and a variety of programs in our community. Our children are collecting gently used crayons that we will sort and repackage and donate to programs and families where funds for school supplies are limited. This will allow families in need to give their budding artists the opportunity to succeed. Please give your child permission to collect crayons that are no longer needed. Please do not buy new crayons for this project. Our goal is to collect used crayons from homes and restaurants because they end up in landfills where it takes years, even decades, for them to break down.  To learn more, check out the website CrayonCollection.org and LearningtoGive.org.

  1. Anticipatory Set

    Have a discussion about what is good about crayons and how they can be used creatively.

    Ask, "Did you ever get a pack of crayons at a restaurant? What do you think happens to these and other crayons when you are done with them?" Share these facts from Crayon Collection:

    • Over 100 million crayons are thrown out every year by restaurant chains across the U.S.
    • Around 100 crayons equals one pound of waste.
    • Crayons are wonderful tools, but crayon waste has a significant, negative environmental impact. Made from paraffin wax, which is derived from petroleum, it can take years (even decades) for a crayon to decompose in a landfill.
    • This 3-minute video shows what happens to our garbage and raises awareness of ways to reduce landfill waste. 
    • If students need more background on what it means for garbage to decompose and why it takes so long, read This Book Stinks: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash by Sarah Wassner Flynn.

    Shall we do something about this waste and help people who need crayons? 

  2. Discuss the possible organizations that might want the crayons they collect. See Teacher Preparation above. Guide learners to identify the targeted location and then contact them to see if they need crayons.

    Start collecting gently used crayons (that would be thrown away) as an environmental project. Determine the place where the collected crayons will be donated to put usable crayons in the hands of children who need them. 

    1. Ask them where they can find crayons without buying new ones. Restaurants, schools, and their own families probably have leftovers they plan to throw away. Determine where the collection boxes will be and talk about collection methods.
    2. Predict together how many they can collect by a date you determine. Calculate how many crayons that is per child or per day. Set your goals. Create a large class graph and add to this graph daily/weekly as they bring crayons in.
  3. Introduce CrayonCollection.org with this Video Introduction and LearningtoGive.org as a nonprofit organization that teaches young people about giving their time, talent, or treasure to make a better world.

    Explain that nonprofit organizations have a mission to make the world better, while a for-profit business, like a restaurant, makes money for the people who own it. Both types of organizations provide important services for communities. 

  4. Teach the following Art Project to make something beautiful with crayons while building self-awareness and creativity.

    Introduction: Our body is the container of who we are. It holds physical things like our brain, heart, bones, organs, muscles, nerves and blood. Aside from these physical things, each of our bodies holds invisible things: emotions, thoughts, ideas, hopes, dreams, intentions, and desired actions. 

    Beyond Our Bodies: Think about all the invisible things that are specific to you: your identity, your emotions, your thoughts, your ideas, your hopes, your dreams, your intentions and the actions you wish to take.

    Step 1:  On the back of your paper, write down all of the invisible things contained in your identity. It can be specific or general. Be open and creative about your list. 

  5. Step 2: A New Portrait.  On the blank side of the paper, we are going to imagine a different version of our “self” made up of the invisible things on our lists. Create a drawing of new kind of body. One that no longer must have an oval head, neck, arms, torso, etc.

    Imagine where each of these invisible things exist in the new body. For example, will creativity be closer to head region and courage toward bottom of drawing? All is possible. You may want to sketch using lighter, pale colors first to compose on the page.  

    Tip! Encourage creative, unconventional, mutant, weird, and abstract line-making and form with imaginary representation.

  6. Into the World: Think about filling the space outside of this “new body.” How does this new body relate to the world around it? How does this new body reach out beyond its boundaries? How does it share these invisible things with other people and engage with the world around it?  What does this new body BRING INTO the world around it? How do we draw that? 

    Step 3:  Draw how the new body connects to the space around it. Draw into all areas of the paper.

  7. After they draw themselves in this new way, ask them to tell a partner about their drawings, telling a couple of details that make them who they are. Discuss the satisfaction they get from being able to share themselves with others.

  8. Service Project:

    • After the children have collected lots of crayons, work together to sort collected crayons by color into shoe boxes. To help with sorting, cover or mark shoe boxes with a single color each to match crayon colors. Have a sorting party for the collected crayons.
    • Re-group the crayons into sets of assorted colors and put a rubber band around each set. 
    • They write a kind note for the person who will receive the new package of recycled crayons (plan this to match the number of recipients).
    • Optional: invite middle school and high school students to help re-package the sorted crayons creatively and donate them to a school with a kind note attached. 

Discussion Questions:

  • What does my crayon art tell others about who I am? 
  • What do I want to say to the child who gets this package of crayons that our community brought together? 
  • Why is it better for the environment to reuse crayons than throw them away?