Recycled Crayons {2014 Valentine’s Day Cards}

Greta and I recently raided my crayon stash for all the small nubs that are just too difficult to use for big and small hands alike.  These turned out so well – my next move is to raid the crayons in my classroom and make new crayons for my students to use.  No sense in throwing out useful crayons when re-purposed crayons are this easily attained.

I started with a fairly large bag of crayon nubs.  Make sure they are peeled and cut down to small chunks, especially if you are working with a funky mold.  I used a silicone mold that was originally intended to be used for ice cubes or candies.

 I grouped my crayons by warm, cool, and neutral colors.  Greta was especially helpful with the sorting – we had great conversations about the colors and where they belonged.  I used everyday craft scissors to cut some of the longer crayons down.

Once the mold is loaded up with crayons, bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes at 325º.  I put my mold on a baking sheet to make the transfer of hot wax easier.  Allow the crayons to cool until completely hardened and set.  I put my hot crayons outside in this frigid Iowa weather and they were ready to be removed from the mold in no time.

Greta tested the finished crayons for me and was delighted – they were easy to hold, the O had a place for her finger, and best of all – she helped to make them.  

My last step was to create a simple Valentine for Greta to use at school.  I’ve been taking a class in the evenings on Adobe Illustrator – this was something I whipped up in the few minutes before class started last week.  I figured I would attach the crayons to the Valentine in a little bag.  If you want the PDF, check it out my Google Docs here.  The document is called valentine.PDF.

Recycled Paper Making: The Basics

My seventh grade art classes recently made recycled paper in class.  This is a great project that allows students to make some interesting choices, learn how to reuse simple items, and let out some energy at the same time.  Read on for a fun project that takes only a few supplies and provides loads of fun. 
A large bag of shredded paper has so many possibilities.  I have asked the main office and counseling office to save shredded paper for me – they always have the fun colors of paper.  

Large mouth juice bottles are the best way to start your recycled paper project.  Add shredded paper until the bottle is ¾ of the way full of paper.

Fill the bottle just over half way with warm water.

Place cap on bottle, tightly.  Find a partner and shake vigorously.  

Meanwhile, make sure that a workspace and supplies are ready.  I spread out thick layers of denim fabric to help soak up water.

Screens made from simple wooden frames screwed together with screen stapled on the side are all I use.  Eric and I put a whole class set together in a matter of a few hours.  These are placed over buckets that just fit the screen.  In a class of about 15, I used three screens and it seemed to work out that there was always a screen available.

I keep plenty of bottles and extra caps available.  That way, if a student needs more time the next class period, he/she can simply use masking tape and a marker to label his or her bottle.

This is the bottle and its contents after about 10 minutes of shaking.  The paper starts to break down into paper pulp quite quickly.  The partners work well because the triceps may start to get a little tired – especially if the bottle is fuller.

If you like, you can speed up the process with a blender.  I have a few donated old blenders, but I have found that the cheap brand new ones actually work the best.

To blend, you can pour the contents of the bottle into the blender to smooth out the paper pulp or you can start from scratch.  Add paper and warm water.  

Cover tightly.  I keep plenty of rags and a few Sham Wows around to mop up spills.  I used this time to teach a little science to the kiddos about water and electricity not mixing.  Blend until smooth.

To change the color of the paper, you can use a variety of methods – dye, colored paper, or plants.  Here, I used black construction paper.  This is a great time to revisit the color wheel and the mixing of colors.  We revisit the color wheel and I always remind my students that if you mix all the colors of shredded paper together you will get mud.  Still, there are always a few who complain about their ‘vomit’ paper.

Embellishments are another fun way to make recycled paper more interesting.  A few things to add but maybe not all at once: glitter, foil, candy wrappers, bits of flowers or herbs, small beads, or cut up ribbon or string.  Here, I added strips of aluminum foil with the paper pulp.

I requested my colleagues save foil chocolate wrappers for me – a great time to ask is before Christmas, Halloween or Valentine’s Day.  I was always delighted to find baggies of foil wrappers in my box – I am sure some colleagues think I am quite the pack rat!  When we start making paper the kids inevitable want to know if I like chocolate.  🙂

After your paper is blended into a smooth pulp, pour it into a screen set up in one of the bins.  Gently press some of the water out into the bucket below.  Be careful not to press too hard, or your screen could come detached from the frame.

Press out as much remaining water as possible on a flat surface, such as the denim fabric, felt, or newspaper.

Transfer the screen to the denim.  Actually, I have found that sections of felt or newspaper work even better because you can then transfer them to drying racks to finish drying.  Or you can move them around to create more space for those still blending. 
Quickly, flip the screen over, so that the screen faces up.  Then, gently tap the paper off the screen and onto the fabric, felt, or newspaper.  

Press even more water out.

This would be a good time to say that making your stamp before you start your paper making is smart planning.  Create embossing stamps out of Styrofoam.  I like to rescue clean trays from the cafeteria to repurpose into stamping materials.  These two stamps were simply drawn with ballpoint pen and then cut with scissors.  I pressed them into the top of the wet paper.

 A simple, yet interesting, relief stamp can be made from multiple layers of Styrofoam, such as this smiling face.  Cut out the shapes, glue, and allow to dry before pressing into the wet paper.

I have found that the stamps work best if the stamps are placed on the fabric and then the paper is turned on top of the stamps.  This way, you can press the paper onto the stamps and create a better impression.

One of my more favorite embellishments can be found in your kitchen.  Onion peels – yellow or red can be added to paper pulp for an interesting dye technique.

 When initially blended, the color appear quite faint.

 Once the paper is fully dry, the onion color shows up much more vibrantly.  These are two examples of the the embossing stamps once dry.

The possibilities for recycled paper projects are endless.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Paint them for more depth.
  • Use recycled paper in place of plaster or clay for hand prints.
  • Turn them into greeting cards.
  • Make recycled jewelry. 
  • Make recycled paper bowls.
  • Turn two sheets into the front and back of a book.
  • Use the paper pulp as a sculpting material, make a 3D object, and then brush with watered down glue to hold it together.  

Check back soon for more projects involving recycled paper.

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DIY Glitter Wand

I had a glitter wand when I was a kid and I remembering playing with it all the time.  It was tubular and filled with pink, purple and glow-in-the-dark glitter.  I fondly remember holding it up to my eyes to make the room appear pink.  I used to flip it end over end to watch the glitter slowly slide around inside.  One time a friend was over, and I remember us charging it in the light and then taking it inside my closet to watch it glow, only  to find we were locked inside the closet with no way out!  We lived in an older house, and the closets did not have doorknobs on the inside.  My friend and I, terrified, began to cry.  Our cries caught the attention of my younger sister, and we convinced her to go and find my dad who was outside, except she forgot her task along the way and was distracted by watering plants.  Finally, after what seemed an eternity, my dad asked what the other two kids were up to.  He discovered sobbing, snotty little girls inside a closet.  
I wanted to make Greta a version of my wand, sans glow-in-the-dark matter to avoid a repeat closet episode.   With all her sick time this past week, we needed a reason to get out of the house on this rainy and gloomy morning.  
So, we headed over to A.C. Moore.  Sadly, they lost their lease and are in the process of selling everything at at discount.  This is both good and bad.  Good for the cheap prices and bad because I will miss A.C. Moore.   I have always preferred them to Michael’s.  
Greta was a big help in the store – clearly she figured out how to bargain shop – $.25 wooden spoon and $1 foam construction hat.  Big spender!  
I found some glitter, silver pom poms, and giraffe confetti for her glitter wand.  I really and truly do hate glitter unless it is contained, so, this project took me out of my art & craft comfort zone.  Notice I chose large glitter, none of that horrid tiny, dust-like glitter.  It is fairy puke – pretty but not fun to clean up.  The things one will do for her child…
I put the glitter, poms, and confetti into a clean soda pop bottle and then filled it almost to the top with water.  I made sure to leave some space at the top so that there would be a couple air bubbles.  Then I glued the lid shut with Gorilla Glue, let it dry, and handed it over to Greta.  Her initial reaction was of intense staring.  

 She then turned it over a few times, watching carefully as the glitter slid around inside.

 Then she shook it violently, stopping every now and then to watch how the glitter settled.

Finally, growing tired, she handed it over to me, where she proceeded to drum on the side of the bottle. This was a huge hit for Greta and continues to be throughout this week.  Just remember, as with any toy with smaller parts, always use with caution and supervise play.  
I could see this being a neat paper weight on a desk or even a calming object for older children.  I am certain it would be a hit with my middle school students as well – I may have to test it out on them tomorrow.  
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