Crayons and Art for Community

9, 10, 11, 12

Students reflect on the value of art in communicating feelings and culture, while taking part in service to the community. They teach an art lesson to young children to encourage self-expression. They plan an environmental service project that puts crayons in the hands of young children. The students identify nonprofit organizations or schools that might need crayons, and they arrange collection of gently used crayons and delivery of repackaged crayons. This project is enhanced when it involves collaboration between classrooms from elementary to high school. 

PrintTwo or three 30-minute Sessions

The learners will...

  • recognize that public art enhances community, and their own art can teach and add joy.
  • communicate with nonprofits and businesses to gain cooperation in the project.
  • research the environmental and community benefits of recycling 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.
  • Optional: learn to recycle crayons by melting and reforming into new shapes
  • 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
  • Optional: transportation (field trip) to deliver crayons and teach an art lesson
  • Optional if melting: oven and silicone ice cube trays or paper liners in muffin tins
Teacher Preparation 

Build School Community: Ask an elementary teacher to teach lesson one and hold a crayon sorting party. Ask a midde school teacher to teach lesson two and determine the best way to package the new sets of crayons.

  • Go to to find Title I schools in your area where crayons may be needed.
  • Other locations that may appreciate the crayons are daycare centers, nonprofits that support families, and Head Start. 
  • 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 encouraging discusion and asking for permission to bring their extra crayons for this recycling project. Sample below: 

Dear Families,

We are participating in a Crayon Collection to benefit the environment and 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. Do not buy new 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? 
  • Who might have crayons they don't need anymore?
  • Who in the community would appreciate re-purposed crayons that are re-packaged with a kind note?


  • 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? 
  • How does art serve the community?


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Talk about art and share some examples of art that communicates feelings or messages: where it is displayed publicly, what it makes us feel, and how it is used to make a difference. Examples: A sculpture in the middle of town may represent a community value. A poster may raise awareness about an issue. Ask students to share their feelings about their own experiences with making and displaying art over the years.

    Tell the students that art is an important way we express ourselves from a young age. It is important for all children to have materials, like crayons, and many teachers spend their own money to buy crayons and art materials. 

    Share these facts from Crayon Collection:

    • Over 100 million crayons are thrown out every year by restaurant chains across the U.S.
    • About 100 crayons equals one pound of waste.
    • 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.
    • Optional: 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 

    Discuss what they think could be done differently to recycle crayons and make sure all young people have tools to create art. 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.

  2. Get students started collecting gently used crayons (that would otherwise be thrown away) as an environmental project. Tell them about the place where the collected crayons will be donated to put usable crayons in the hands of children who need them. Or, have the students make phone calls and find local places that have a need for crayons. 

    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.
    2. Students may make phone calls to find restaurants to participate.
    3. Determine where the collection boxes will be and talk about collection methods.
    4. 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.  
    5. Send home the above note to families so the students can talk about the project at home.  
    6. Optional: partner with another classroom to collect and sort the crayons, if desired. Build community culture by involving the whole school and whole community in doing good. 
    7. Consider bringing media and communiuty awareness to oyur students' efforts.  This media and timeline guide should help.
  3. 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 Ror-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.
    • 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.

    • Students may research nonprofits in the community related to an area of interest (families, art, children) by looking at Locate the nonprofits on a map. Tell students that working at a nonprofit is a career option. They can find opportunities in their high school years to move toward that career by volunteering or serving as an intern.

  4. Alternative One: Art Lesson

    • Students use crayon techniques to create a picture that communicates a message about the importance of art.
    • Students make a plan to teach art to a group of younger students. They may teach a crayon technique from Pinterest or teach the art project in lesson one
    • Involve the students in contacting the teacher (maybe where a sibling attends) and designing the art lesson.
    • They visit the school get to know students one on one as they make art together.
    • After the art lesson, students reflect on how it felt to create art with another student. Talk about art as something that brings community members together. 
  5. Alternative Two: Learn the science of crayons.

    This may be used as a springboard to teaching a hands-on science lesson at a local elementary or middle school classroom. Give different assignments to different students. Do a KWL to determine what they want to know and learn, such as the following:

    1. What are crayons made of and how are they made?
    2. How do crayons break down in a landfill? How long does it take?
    3. How can crayons be reused (melting, art projects)?
    4. What hands-on science lesson can be demonstrated with crayons? 
    5. What different crayon techniques are there in creating art?
  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.
    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. Involve students in planning the logistics. Option: the students can arrange for a representative to visit the class, pick up the crayons, and tell about their work. 
  7. Alternative: Recycle crayons by melting (275 degree oven for 15 min) and reforming into new shapes (use silicone ice cube trays or paper liners in muffin tins)

    Alternative: Have students design crayon packaging using an engineering or class pitch.

Cross Curriculum 
  • Crayola recycles plastic markers in their "Color Cycle" program. Find out more here and organize a used marker drive. 
  • 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 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Provide an example of an organization (or a service that it contributes) from a list of categories of civil society organizations.
    2. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Compare and contrast the basic terms and operations of the for-profit, government, family, and civil society sectors.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Describe why a civil society sector corporation may produce goods and services without the profit incentive.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Provide a needed service.
    2. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Describe a detailed action for service.