Junk A Teaching Treasure

Junk A Teaching Treasure

Teachers are resourceful. When budgets are tight the creative educator or parent turns to resources that are easily and economically available. To say this more bluntly—they find ways to use “junk” to educate and entertain.

With an extended track record in parenting and educating I find that there are many projects in “my bag of tricks” that utilize what others might consider disposable, worthless, clutter. I have a workshop called “Junk A Teachers Treasure”. Each time I share that presentation I have requests for the ideas in be in a book. It is those requests that have finally pushed me far enough to begin on the task of recording some of those ideas to inspire others to look at what they might do with items that by some might be considered to be “trash”. This process will take time to evolve into a book but for the present I will create articles and share ideas from www.learningprops.com web site.

Why do I suggest using trashable items? Cost and availability lead the reasons for using throw-a-way items. Beyond that the opportunity to be creative and innovative gives cause to using items that would otherwise be thrown away. Children quickly model what they see and experience and using items that otherwise would go in the garbage will teach environmental responsibility.

Are there safety concerns with using junk based items? Safety is always of great concern when working with children. Regardless of the source of the items used with children, parents and educators should always be attentive to safety. Some key points to consider:

1. Young children and children who experience materials by putting them in their mouth should never have items that are defined as small parts. There is both a diameter and length dimension in defining small parts. For reference the diameter is 1″—a mental image is that the lid off of a milk or juice carton is safe—the lid off of a soft drink container is an unsafe size. In terms of length of things that have a diameter smaller than the milk carton lid—use things that measure longer than 3 inches.
2. Nothing with a sharp point should be used.
3. Discard or cover with tape any edges that could present a sharp edge.
Example: a cut piece of plastic like the edges of a soft drink bottle or a plastic milk carton should always be taped.
4. Foam trays such as those which come with bakery products should be washed and rinsed with a bleach water solution.
5. Foam egg cartons need the same treatment as noted above. Egg cartons of the cardboard nature should be sprayed with disinfectant and sealed in a plastic bag for 12 hours.
6. Any disposable items of washable material should be washed and rinsed in bleach water solution.
7. Children should wash their hands after any projects using disposable items before moving on to handling other materials.
8. Never use containers that have contained any chemical based products.
9. Always consider the hygiene and cleanliness of the environment where these items have been collected from.
Example: foam trays with raw meat should not be saved and used.

Keep in mind the undivided attention of parent/teacher is essential for any child activity.

How do we gather these junk items that will be used?
Parents and educators will want to designate a collection area. A dedicated space for frequently used items will get you in the habit of having such resources available when needed. You may want to get a series of boxes to store things. Some of the treasures for you to consider are:

Scraps of fabric, yarn, ribbon, colored paper…
Plastic bottles from a variety of products: peanut butter, baby food, soap, detergent, catsup, salad dressing…
Boxes and cardboard of various sizes…
Catalogs, envelopes, pictures, newspaper, advertisements…
Paper towel rolls, wrapping paper tube…
Carpet remnants, sheets, table cloths…

Be alert to the many other treasure items you and others use 🙂

Ask for support in gathering these treasures from families, friends, neighbors, recycle centers…

The more experiences you have using these valuable resources the more you will see the potential for other projects. If you have an idea you would like to share please accept my invitation to share them with me!!

Bev Schumacher
Learning Props

Or visit www.learningprops.com and use the contact opportunities there.

Visit www.learningprops.com and click on “Fun Things To Do” where you will find projects described. Revisit as I will continue to add ideas. —