Making Art out of Trash – Christa McAuliffe Earth Day Challenge

Making Art out of Trash – Christa McAuliffe Earth Day Challenge
Shawnee Mission School District

Students at Christa McAuliffe Elementary rose to a schoolwide challenge of turning their household trash into repurposed works of art.

To set the stage, students viewed the Trash Talk video from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Classes discussed what they learned from the video sharing questions and feelings after watching the video. 

Palmer McLaughlin, fifth grader, shares that trash in the ocean makes her sad.

“I want to do something about it and I want others to help, too,” McLaughlin expressed.  “We can help by recycling and joining Earth friendly groups.”

Students collected ‘clean trash’ and recyclables from their home and brought them into school for the project.

Lindsey Constance, Christa McAuliffe instructional coach, and Jessica McLaughlin, building substitute and artist, led the project.  They began with kindergartner’s discussing what type of trash may be seen in the ocean and on land.  Their discussion included different meanings of ‘trash’ and the different ways trash can be used for recycling, reusing, and repurposing.  Several kindergartners described trash as “things you can’t use anymore.” The kindergartners then separated collected trash into what they might expect to see in the ocean and what might be seen on land.

Fifth graders followed with a discussion of decomposition, learning that it can take up to 450 years for plastic bottles to decompose and nearly 600 years for Styrofoam to decompose. Student, Olivia Frazier’s reaction to the decomposition lesson is how important it is for everyone to do their part.

“Repurpose all you can because it’s good to recycle and reuse, even if it’s a little bit,” Frazier stated.

Students then formed groups, selected items from the sorted trash, and worked together to create reusable items and works of art.