Creative re-use in the classroom

Over the last several years, our society has realized the global need for ongoing leadership in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. These areas are known as STEAM and have become a pointed focus for our educational system from Early Childhood programs to Secondary and Post-Secondary Institutions.

In order to best illustrate these concepts, schools and organizations have been creating “maker spaces” where students of all ages can combine, try out, experiment and create with collections of materials to develop their learning of STEAM concepts. Ultimately, these hands-on opportunities give the student new ways to understand concepts learned in the classroom as well as in the natural environment.

The challenge in providing these unique learning experiences lies in the materials available to the students. With education funding sources consistently inconsistent, a natural turn to available resources becomes inevitable. In short, the best and most cost-effective materials are the ones that are low cost or no cost.

Some of these materials are readily available, such as what can be found in nature or what is in our daily environment. Other materials can be accessed through creative sourcing in the community. Left-over supplies from an event, old tires, HVAC tubing, fabric, PVC piping, corrugated or packing materials are ideal for hands-on learning and exploration. In other words, there are no additional components to create in order to be creative.

Individual companies and organizations can consider even the most basic cast-off unit from packaging or manufacturing as a possible component for a child’s imagination. Who knows what those plastic straps, spacers, or unused pieces of material can be re-purposed into when intentionally donated to a local school or creative reuse facility? Recent trends in recycling, robotics competitions, and collaborative art installations have given new life to old and wasted materials. At the very least, those extra parts will not end up in a landfill causing untold consequences for generations to come.

Partnerships between corporations and learning environments are a natural congress of this STEAM movement. As students learn and progress through their educational journey, career paths emerge from this foundation of exploration. Businesses who donate and support these efforts are literally creating their own next generation of highly skilled workers. Simply stated, connections made now will forge a stronger future for students, businesses, society and our precious natural resources.

by Marianne M. Laney, adjunt professor at Orange Coast College, Supervising Case Manager at Proof Positive ABA Therapies