Crayons and Art for Community

9, 10, 11, 12

Youth 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 youth identify nonprofit organizations or schools that might need crayons, and they arrange a 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.
  • materials for repackaging crayons, such as rubber bands, paper or cloth bags, ribbons, or other creative ideas (avoid plastic bags for sustainability)
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.
  • 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 discussion 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 youth 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


  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 youth to share their feelings about their own experiences with making and displaying art over the years.

    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 ways 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. Collect 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 youth 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. Youth may make phone calls to find restaurants to participate.
    3. Determine where the collection boxes will be and talk about collection methods.
    4. Predict together how many they can collect by a date you determine. Calculate how many crayons that is per person 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. Bring in media and community awareness.  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. 

    • 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 with this Video Introduction

    • Introduce as an organization that teaches young people about giving their time, talent, or treasure for the common good.

    • Research nonprofits in the community related to an area of interest (families, art, children) by looking at Locate the nonprofits on a map. 

  4. Art Lesson

    • Use crayon techniques to create a picture that communicates a message about the importance of art.
    • Teach art to a group of younger students. They may teach a crayon technique from Pinterest or teach the art project in lesson one
  5. Service Project:

    1. After collecting crayons, work together to sort collected crayons by color into shoe boxes. Cover or mark shoe boxes with a single color each to match crayon colors. 
    2. Re-group the crayons into sets of assorted colors and put a rubber band around each set.
    3. 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 group, then take steps to repackage the sorted crayons into usable assorted packs.
    1. 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. 
  6. 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)

Cross Curriculum 
  • Crayola recycles plastic markers in their "Color Cycle" program. Find out more here and organize a used marker drive. 
  • Research crayon ingredients and engineering, as well as the environmental impact of throwing them away.
  • 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.