Upcycled Creativity

Use recycled and repurposed materials to foster creative confidence, visual thinking, and the spirit of possibilities.

Photo of Dan Ryder
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Find an abandoned media cart -- a microwave cart serves the purpose equally well -- and outfit it with empty oatmeal containers, coffee cans, baby food jars, and dollar store quality tackle boxes.  Fill those containers with buttons and dominoes, yarn and corks, wood ends and glass beads, checkers and LEGO and the sorts of bits and pieces of ephemera that seem to serve no other purpose.

Put in your room.  Make a deliberate choice each week to use these materials for brainstorms and mapping, ideating and demonstrating, setting aside laptops and devices and even pen and paper for a spell, to think in 3-D dimensions and unlock the ideas that present themselves when we remember what it is like to play.

DJ Turntables.

How does this idea help to spark student curiosity?

In providing student materials and opportunity to make their thinking both visual and tactile, students are more likely to experience purposeful collisions between intentions and the unexpected. Those moments of serendipity tend to resonate longer and better motivate continued exploration.

What grade level is this idea most appropriate for?

  • All of the above

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Do you love this idea?

Yes! I love it. - 100%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jessica Lura

yay! love "playing." high schoolers need hands-on activities just as much as elementary (my favorite part of first grade--mind time--my students spent the time creating with junk. it was awesome.)

Photo of Dan Ryder

Thanks Jess,

It all goes back to that idea of simple changes having meaningful impact. And I have to reactivate it for myself -- I've had closets full of "stuff" that have just languished there in the "if only I could think of the right assessment" pile when in actuality, these are fantastic tools for formative assessment and just plain thinking and creating.