Think Outside the Catalog!

When I look through school-supply catalogs, I shake my head at the amount of money some people are apparently willing to pay for little fuzzy pompoms, foam paper, feathers, sequins, stamps, stickers, and other fancy, colorful “art supplies.” Nothing against little fuzzy pompoms, but there’s a multitude of fabulous, free art materials hiding in plain sight all around us. For a while, when she was six or seven years old, one student I knew enjoyed making art out of pencil shavings. In her backpack, she always carried a little zip-lock bag filled with them. I seem to remember she glued them on paper in various designs.

Don’t worry, I am not suggesting you give your students pencil shavings. Pencil shavings are dirty and they smell bad. However, they do have the advantage of being free, which is a great quality in an art material!

Using recycled materials for art projects does much more than save money. It promotes a spirit of exploration and discovery, it encourages curiosity, and best of all, it teaches children that creativity doesn’t come from what we buy, but from how we think. What a wonderful lesson.

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