Art projects for elementary students using recycled materials

Written by shelley frost
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Art projects for elementary students using recycled materials
Old foil or paper works for many art projects. (wrinkled foil image by Igor Zhorov from

Recycled art projects cost very little and utilise resources you already have available. The resulting artwork is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece for the students to display. The recycling aspect of the art projects ties in with science lessons on the environment. Parents often provide recyclable items if asked to use for the art projects.


A recycled material sculpture creates a three-dimensional display for the classroom. Gather different types of materials for the sculptures. Materials can include food boxes, cans, aluminium foil, egg cartons, old toy parts and cardboard tubes. The kids assemble the items into a freestanding sculpture. Regular school glue won't hold together some items. Choose a craft glue or hot glue gun for better results. If the sculptures don't stand well on their own, suspend them on strings from the ceiling for an overhead display.


A recycled paper collage is another art project that reuses materials. Magazines, wrapping paper, construction paper scraps, greeting cards and fabric scraps work well as the decorations for the collages. The materials can be cut to create straight edges or torn for a more jagged appearance. Each child starts with a piece of poster board or cardboard. The kids glue on the scraps of the recycled materials to create a collage design.

Photo Frames

A piece of recycled cardboard creates the actual frame for the photo. Cut a frame for the front in the desired size. The shape doesn't have to be a traditional rectangle. Encourage the kids to choose a different shape for a creative approach to the project. Cut another solid piece of cardboard to create the back of the frame. The kids decorate the front of the frame using recyclable materials. One option is to glue on puzzle pieces with the pieces overlapping slightly to cover the cardboard frame. Fabric and paper scraps also work well as a covering material. Glue or tape a picture onto the back of the frame piece. Glue on the solid back piece behind the picture to protect it and seal it.

Watering Jug

An empty milk jug or plastic bottle gets a new use as a watering can. Poke several holes in the lid with a hammer and nail. This job is best left to adults to avoid injuries. The kids decorate the jug using acrylic paint. They can also apply stickers, glitter glue or other art supplies to decorate the outside of the jug. To use the watering jug, fill the container with water and place the lid on top. Turn the jug upside down to sprinkle the water onto the plants.

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