Community of Crayon Collectors

6, 7, 8

Students learn about the environmental effect of crayons and their own power to make an impact. Students collect gently used crayons from restaurants and other places in the community. They sort them by color, repackage them sustainably for re-use, and add a kind note. They learn about the difference between nonprofit and for-profit businesses, and they identify where there is need for the repackaged crayons. Optional: they may plan an art project to do with a group outside school to build a relationship with younger or older generations (preschool or retirement home). This lesson is enhanced when it involves collaboration between classrooms from elementary to high school.

PrintTwo or three 30-minute Sessions

The learners will...

  • research the environmental and community benefits of recycling crayons.
  • define philanthropy and plan a service project.
  • design sustainable packaging for the crayons they collect, possibly a paper or cloth bag or ribbon tied around 8 crayons.
  • define for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and recognize them as career choices.
  • write a kind note to the child who receives the recycled crayon package.
  • Optional: build connections by collaborating with students in other classrooms. 
  • materials for repackaging crayons, such as rubber bands, paper or cloth bags, ribbons, or other creative ideas (avoid plastic bags for sustainability)
  • shoeboxes for sorting crayons
Teacher Preparation 

Build School Community: Ask an elementary teacher to teach lesson one and hold a crayon sorting party. Ask a high school teacher to teach lesson three and locate restaurants who will donate crayons and places where the crayons can be donated.

  • Research local schools, centers, and nonprofits where crayons may be needed. 
  • Locations that may appreciate the crayons include daycare centers, nonprofits that support families, and Head Start. identifies Title I schools in your area.
  • Contact the school or organization to ask about their need before you start the project. Ask how many are needed and how they'd like them packaged for their use.

Note: Preview the students' kind notes to be sure they are appropriate for the audience. 

  • for-profit organization-(n) A term describing the Internal Revenue Service’s designation of an organization whose income is used for the benefit or private gain of stockholders, directors, or any other persons with an interest in the company; and is subject to all the tax laws for businesses and industries.
  • nonprofit organization-(n) A term describing the Internal Revenue Service’s designation of an organization whose income is not used for the benefit or private gain of stockholders, directors, or any other persons with an interest in the company; separate tax treatment exists based on whether it is charitable or not.
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 students 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 and



  • Why is it better for the environment to reuse crayons than throw them away? Where have you seen crayons not being used? 


  • With whom in the community could our class do an crayon art project, such as seniors in a retirement home or children in a preschool?
  • What do I want to say to the child who gets this package of crayons that our community brought together? 


  • How did the project go? What was our impact? In what other ways can we move items from waste to usefulness? 

Crayon Collection: Environmental Impact:



  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Talk about what students loved about crayons when they were younger. Do they still use them to create cool effects in their art? Do they have lots of them at home not being used? Ask, "What do you think happens to crayons when people 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.
    • 112 average crayons equals one pound of waste.
    • While crayons are wonderful, 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.

    Ask students to research crayon recycling on the Internet. They can look up what they are made of, how they break down, and efforts to recycle -- environmental-impact 

  2. Discuss what they think could be done differently to reduce waste and recycle crayons and put them in the hands of people who might not have them. This may include sharpening rather than throwing away, melting into fun shapes, collecting and donating, and so on. 

    Tell students they will be collecting and donating crayons to help the environment and donate to an organization that serves children. Determine the place where the collected crayons will be donated to put usable crayons in the hands of children who need them. This may be decided by the teacher or the students. See Teacher Prep, above.

    See handout for involving the students in collecting information about restaurant waste. 

  3. Show this 3-minute video What Is Philanthropy? and discuss what students like about getting involved in making a difference as a classroom and school. 

    Get students started collecting gently used crayons (that would otherwise be thrown away) as an environmental project.  

    1. Ask them where they can find crayons without buying new. 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 with the students how many they can collect by a date you determine. Calculate how many crayons that is per student or per day. Set your goals.  
    3. Send home the above note to families so the students can talk about the project at home.  
    4. Optional: partner with another classroom to sort and distribute the crayons, if desired. Build community culture by involving the whole school and whole community in doing good. 
    5. Consider bringing media and community awareness to your students' efforts.  This media and timeline guide should help.
    • Introduce and tell students about their efforts to repurpose crayons destined for the trash by gathering and sharing crayons with schools that can use them. Video Introduction
    • Introduce as an organization that helps teachers all over the world with lesson plans like this one to teach their students about giving their time, talent, or treasure and to build community around doing good.
  4. Teach the difference between a nonprofit and for-profit organization. Mainly, a nonprofit works for a mission while a for-proft works for a financial profit. Working for a nonprofit organization is a potential career option. This Nonprofit or For-Profit? lesson helps develop understanding. Examples:

    • A local restaurant is a for-profit that exists to make money, provide a service, and employ people. 
    • and are both nonprofits that have a mission to impact the common good, and they provide a service and employ people.
    • Both types of organizations provide important services for communities. Since nonprofits serve the common good, they get a tax break from the government. 
    • Students may research nonprofits in the community related to an area of interest (families, art, seniors) by looking at
  5. Identify a nonprofit organization in the community where the students can develop a relationship with people from another generation - older or younger. They determine an activity to do related to crayons. Ideas below. 

    1. Students bring crayons and paper to an elementary classroom and teach a crayon technique lesson. This may come from the art activity in lesson one or they may research crayon techniques on Pinterest. 
    2. Students may bring crayons and an adult coloring book to a retirement home. As they get to know a senior, they talk and color for relaxation. 
  6. Service Project:

    1. After the students have collected lots of crayons, work together (optional: with an elementary classroom) to sort collected crayons by color into shoe boxes. Cover or mark shoe boxes with a single color each to match crayon colors. Have a sorting party for the collected crayons.
    2. Re-group the crayons into sets of assorted colors and put a rubber band around each set. Alternative: Remove papers and melt like-colored crayons into fun shapes.
    3. The students brainstorm different ways they can re-package the sorted crayons creatively.
    • Have them analyze the pros and cons of the different brainstormed ideas, including the cost, environmental impact, practicality of taking crayons in and out of the new package, and so on.  
    • Evaluate the choices and come to a decision as a classroom, then take steps to repackage the sorted crayons into usable assorted packs.
    1. Students write kind notes for the students who will receive the new packages of recycled crayons (plan this to match the number of recipients).
    2. Donate them to the identified place with a kind note attached. Optional: work with a high school classroom to identify  the recipients and arrange pick up or delivery. 
  7. Extension: Crayola recycles plastic markers in their "Color Cycle" program. Find out more here and organize a used marker drive. 

Cross Curriculum 
  • Involve the students in research about crayon ingredients and engineering, as well as the environmental impact of throwing them away.
  • You may involve students in identifying and contacting places where there are children who can use the repurposed packs of crayons. Go to to look up Title 1 schools in your community. Consider other locations such as daycare centers, nonprofits that support families, and HeadStart. 

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Compare and contrast the roles of business, government, civil society sector, and family.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Describe the task and the student role.