The change of seasons is magical for adults and children alike. As the (mountains of) snow continue to melt, I find myself desperately seeking out signs of spring. I’ve uttered ridiculous sentences like “Did you notice it’s still light at 5:00?! Last week, it was 4:55!” and “OH MY GOSH A ROBIN!”. My five-year old has been kindly indulging my excitement and playing along by bringing my attention to every single rabbit who hops across our lawn.
And spring is exciting. Perhaps even more so this year.
Many of us are looking forward to spending more time outside but let us not forget to nurture our indoor spaces to keep children engaged and to let their creativity shine. Maybe your dramatic play area feels a little stale. Maybe the same puzzle has been on a table with a missing piece for months. Maybe your book corner is growing some cobwebs. And maybe, just maybe, you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by all of the unique challenges this school year has presented.
So, let’s focus on some low commitment, high impact spring cleaning projects. Specifically, let’s tackle the art center. It is National Arts & Crafts month after all.
First Things, First
Get rid of dried-out markers and paints. I promise you will feel better. Those three pompoms leftover from an apple project in September? Get rid of those, too. If you have scraps or supplies worth salvaging, simply label and store them out of sight. Done and done.
Put out some new supplies for open-ended creativity. You provide the materials, and the children do the hard work of thinking, creating, and collaborating. Let them be inspired by the new materials you put out and by each other. Step in to support and facilitate when necessary. This is what makes process-based art projects so freeing. You don’t have to make a sample, because there isn’t one! All students can experience success with this type of art regardless of English language proficiency, gross motor skills, language development, or any factors that can impact other parts of the school day.
Try adding a set or two of these solid paints for a fun and fresh spin on painting without the mess. A big “canvas” for these can be an alternative to an easel - try craft paper or a roll of tin foil.
Broken crayons? A quick internet search reveals dozens of videos demonstrating methods for how to melt your leftover bits into ‘new’ tools for creation and creativity. This little renewal project, some cookie cutters, stencils, and crayon paper will be sure to draw in some new visitors to your art center. Children will delight in seeing familiar art materials like crayons and paper in a new light!
Reuse and Recycle
Do a little spring cleaning at your own house to look for items to spark interest in your art area. I recently brought the following supplies to art and STEAM teachers in my school, who welcomed the donations with open arms and big smiles: shoe boxes, paper straws from a birthday party three years ago, empty cereal boxes waiting to go in the recycling bin, cardboard boxes from online shopping orders, and dozens of toilet paper rolls I was saving for an art project that never quite came to fruition during months of quarantine. I have seen some of the projects incorporating these materials and other household items that I could never have envisioned myself!
Some Final Thoughts
- Mix old and new items for maximum effect. Why not pair these Colors of the World products with your regular markers and crayons?
- Consider how items are displayed. Dumping 25 toilet paper rolls on a table doesn’t exactly say “create something magical out of me!” A sectioned tray or basket can go a long way in making the art center an inviting and inspiring space in your classroom.
- Invite spring in! Ok, so this may be the opposite of spring cleaning, but let’s just think about it. What could students do with any of your art center materials plus…
- a few stones?
- a fresh green leaf?
- some blades of grass?
- Incorporate nature-oriented art materials into the classroom:
Not sure? Me neither (that’s the fun part!)
So, pick a spring-cleaning project or two and get busy! You just may find yourself spring cleaning your way through the dramatic play center…or the book corner. Who knows? You might even come across that missing puzzle piece.
Since graduating from Juniata College in 2008, Leah has worked as a Learning Support Teacher, Life Skills Support Teacher, Instructional Coach, and is currently teaching 6th Grade ELA and Social Studies at Shippensburg Area Middle School. When not busy teaching or scouring Pinterest for teaching ideas, Leah enjoys reading, baking healthy treats, and practicing yoga. She currently resides in Greencastle, Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter.
The opinions, representations, and statements made within this guest article are those of the author and not of Becker’s School Supplies as a whole. Any copyright remains with the author and any liability with regard to infringement of intellectual property rights remain with them. The company accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.