It’s April already–let the (real) spring begin! Spring brings thoughts of growing things and, for many, the health of planet earth. With Earth Day coming up, it’s time to think about incorporating creativity in solving some of our earth’s many problems. The Earth Day Network’s educator site has lots of materials for Earth Day, including activities to think about making schools more Green, and an Action Toolkit to getting you started. And what better occasion to practice some of the basic creative thinking strategies? Whether you are coming up with advertising strategies for a battery recycling drive or Green locker cleanout, or developing plans for a school garden, use the occasion to teach creativity basics like brainstorming, random input, or SCAMPER.
Chances are, your Earth Day plans include the” 3-Rs” of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. This year, how about expanding the formula to include Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Upcycle? The opportunities for creativity are virtually unlimited!
“Upcycling” is a recent term for making something old into something new and of more value. It reduces the consumption of new raw materials while adding value to what exists. It is the opposite of downcycling, in which something is broken down and reused, but the quality of the product that results is diminished. This often happens with food containers. Many bottles can be recycled—but not into food-grade plastic.
Few of us will—at least at this point—work on the chemistry of improving the way plastics are broken down and reconstituted. But we can take something that might normally be thrown away and make something useful from it. This is commonly done in developing countries, where traditional resources can be hard to come by. For example, 10,000 Villages features picture frames made of broken bicycle chains and coin purses made from snack bags.
Here’s an upcycling website to inspire you. Who knew drier lint could be made into clay? Maybe you can make a light fixture from old cassettes or bottles. Give it a try. And if you are studying electricity, so much the better! Who knows what you or your students can create?
**And here’s an extra blog bonus: an example of upcycling that is not silly, but profoundly important. This is a film that will never allow you to look a soft drink bottle in the same way again. There are several related films on YouTube so I’m not sure how to give credit to the proper inventor, but it is wonderful to see, regardless.