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home > Learning Activities and Art Projects > Earth Week Learning Activities and Art Projects > Activity




Grade(s): K-12

Project Length: Two classroom periods

Content Areas: Science, English Language Arts and Visual Art

B. Learning Activity Description:

Bringing from home an object that is no longer needed or that can be recycled, students “transform” the object into a visual work of art. Each student uses that object and various art materials to make the art work, and then creates a literary piece that explains the purpose of the art work and deepens their understanding of problems and solutions for preserving our world.

C. Learning Activity Goals: By the end of this learning activity, participants will know and be able to:

  1. Understand age/grade appropriate concepts and terms from Science such as: conserve, deplete, ecosystem, natural resources, pollute, recycle, resources, and sustainability.

  2. Brainstorm and discuss age/grade appropriate issues or problems existing today that cause pollution, erode natural resources, or harm nature, its inhabitants and/or the environment; issues can relate to air, water or land.

  3. Brainstorm and discuss possible solutions for the above.

  4. Choose and bring to school an object from home that is no longer needed or can be recycled.

  5. Understand that writers and visual artists have a main idea, audience and purpose when creating their works. Some purposes that they have in common are: to entertain, to inform, to document, to share and to persuade.

  6. Work with various art materials as well as the unwanted or recyclable object to create a three-dimensional work of art that does one or more of the following:

    • Communicates a statement about a current problem for our air, our land and/or our water
    • Serves as a symbol, a reminder, or a motivator to help save the planet/environment
    • Could be used as an instrument in performing functions that involve saving the planet/environment
    • Serves a utilitarian or aesthetic purpose (vs. having been thrown away); the object is “transformed”

  7. Demonstrate age/grade appropriate understanding of visual art principles such as: color, composition, design, line, shape, pattern, space (positive and negative), and aesthetic and utilitarian purposes in creating the visual work of art.

  8. Complete an Art Reflection Worksheet that demonstrates understanding of creating the art project. Adapt this worksheet for younger students by engaging them in a conversation about the project and/or having them dictate some of their answers to the questions that they can relate to.

  9. Create a literary work to explain the purpose of the art work and how its creation has contributed to solutions to problems discussed in class. Again, adapt this assignment for younger students in the same manner as described above.

  10. Share and reflect upon what they have learned in this session with classmates.


A. Science Standards: Benchmarks

1. Earth and Space Sciences

K-4 Benchmarks
D. Describe what resources are and recognize some are limited but can be extended through recycling or decreased use.
3-5 Benchmarks
C. Describe Earth’s resources including rocks, soil, water, air, animals and plants and the ways in which they can be conserved.
6-8 Benchmarks
C. Describe interactions of matter and energy throughout the lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere (e.g., water cycle, weather and pollution).
9-10 Benchmarks
D. Describe the finite nature of Earth’s resources and those human activities that can conserve or deplete Earth’s resources.
11-12 Benchmarks
C. Explain that humans are an integral part of the Earth’s system and the choices humans make today impact natural systems in the future.

B. English Language Arts Standards: Benchmarks

6. Writing Process

K-2 Benchmarks

A. Generate ideas for written compositions.
B. Develop audience and purpose for self-selected and assigned writing tasks.
C. Use organizers to clarify ideas for writing assignments.
3-4 Benchmarks
A. Generate ideas and determine a topic suitable for writing.
B. Determine audience and purpose for self-selected and assigned writing tasks.
C. Apply knowledge of graphics or other organizers to clarify ideas of writing assignments.
5-7 Benchmarks
A. Generate writing topics and establish a purpose appropriate for the audience.
B. Determine audience and purpose for self-selected and assigned writing tasks.
C. Clarify ideas for writing assignments by using graphics or other organizers.
8-10 Benchmarks (11-12 are similar)
A. Formulate writing ideas and identify a topic appropriate to the purpose and audience.
B. Determine the usefulness of organizers and apply appropriate pre-writing tasks.
E. Apply tools to judge the quality of writing.

C. Visual Arts Standards: Benchmarks

2. Creative Expression and Communication

K-4 Benchmarks
B. Use the elements and principles of art as a means to express ideas, emotions and experiences.
5-8 Benchmarks
B. Create two- and three-dimensional original artwork that demonstrates personal visual expression and communication.
9-12 Benchmarks
A. Demonstrate mastery of materials, concepts and personal concentration when creating original artworks.
B. Create expressive artworks that demonstrate a sense of purpose and understanding of the relationship among form, materials, techniques and subject matter.

3. Analyzing and Responding

K-4 Benchmarks
A. Identify and describe the visual features and characteristics in works of art. B. Apply comprehensions strategies (e.g., personal experience, art knowledge, emotion and perceptual and reasoning skills) to respond to a range of visual art works.
5-8 Benchmarks
A. Apply the strategies of art criticism to describe, analyze and interpret selected works of art.
B. Present and support an individual interpretation of a work of art.
9-12 Benchmarks
B. Explain how form, subject matter and context contribute to meanings in works of art.
C. Critique their own works, the works of peers and other artists on the basis of the formal, technical and expressive aspects in the works.

4. Valuing the Arts/Aesthetic Reflection

K-4 Benchmarks
A. Apply basic reasoning skills to understand why works of art are made and valued.
B. Form their own opinions and views about works of art and discuss them with others.
5-8 Benchmarks
A. Demonstrate aesthetic inquiry and reflection skills when participating in discussions about the nature and value of art.
B. Analyze diverse points of view about artworks and explain the factors that shape various perspectives.
9-12 Benchmarks
A. Communicate how an aesthetic point of view contributes to the ideas, emotions and overall impact of personal artworks and the works of others.
B. Judge the merit of selected artworks and provide the aesthetic basis for their positions.

5. Connections, Relationships and Applications

K-4 Benchmarks
B. Use the visual arts as a means to understand concepts and topics studied in disciplines outside the arts.
5-8 Benchmarks
C. Use key concepts, issues and themes to connect visual art to various content areas.
9-12 Benchmarks
B. Formulate and solve a visual art problem using strategies and perspectives from other disciplines.



Engage students in the activities as described in the Goals Section.

Art Project Instructions:

Students look at and share the objects that they have brought from home and discuss possibilities for selecting and working with the additional art materials provided by the teacher. The teacher can also share some examples of completed projects.

Using the object brought from home, and one or more of the art supplies provided by the teacher (refer to supplies), students choose a purpose for their work (see item #5 under Learning Activity Goals) and create a visual work of art. They can only use the art items provided and the object that they have brought from home.


  • Actively participate in classroom discussions and in the art project
  • Respond to questions with grade appropriate answers
  • Make connections to their own experiences
  • Complete worksheets
  • Complete the visual art project following the Art Project Instructions


Below is a list of supplies that are fairly inexpensive, colorful, and readily available at craft stores. Feel free to add or subtract based on “stuff” that you may already have on hand or that you like to work with!
  • An object that the student brings from home that is no longer of use or that can be recycled
  • Wire of various gauges and colors
  • Glue gun, glue sticks and/or craft glue
  • Paint
  • Buttons
  • Yarn
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Pony Beads
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Multipurpose and/or card stock paper
  • A recycle sticker that each student can place on his or her completed work of art; you can find one in most computer clip art, copy multiple times, print out and affix with glue. I have also provided a sheet for your use at the end of this Learning Activity.


You can modify vocabulary based upon students age/grade.


Conserve: to use or manage (natural resources) wisely; preserve; save

Deplete: to decrease seriously or exhaust the abundance or supply of

Ecosystem: A place having unique physical features—including air, water, and land—that supports plant and animal life. In fact, the rainforest, the ocean, and your backyard are all ecosystems

Natural resources: the natural wealth of a country, consisting of land, forests, mineral deposits, water, etc.

Pollute: to make foul or unclean, especially with harmful chemical or waste products

Resources: a source of supply, support, or aid, especially one that can be readily drawn upon when needed

Recycle: to treat or process (used or waste materials) so as to make suitable for reuse

Recycle symbol: three arrows that create an endless loop; indicates a product or its packaging that are recyclable; if the arrows are shown inside a circle that mean the product itself was made from recycled material

Sustainability: As defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development, sustainable development is "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Visual Art

Aesthetic: pertaining to the sense of beauty or an object being beautiful

Assemblage: the technique of creating three dimensional works of art by combining various elements, especially found objects

Composition: The placement or arrangement of an artwork’s formal elements (line, shape, value, texture and color).

Design: The patterned organization of a composition, usually seen in the arrangement of shapes and lines.

Line: Mark made by a moving point; can be long, short, thick, thin, squiggly, etc.

Negative space: the space around the positive forms or objects in a composition

Pattern: repeating colors, lines, shapes, textures or values

Positive space: areas of the composition that are occupied with objects

Sculpture: the creation of three dimensional forms by carving, modeling or assembling.

Shapes: are formed when lines meet; circles, squares, rectangles, etc.

Three dimensional: having height, width and length

Utilitarian: having usefulness


These are provided for your use as pdf files. Photos of students' works for Earth Week's "What Can It Be" projects Click on the student names below to see examples.


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