Kelley School third-graders recently participated in a six-week recycling and repurposing project of something near and dear to their hearts — crayons.
After hearing Earth Day-related discussions in their Whole School Enrichment classes taught by Jen Strazzabosco, students thought and talked about ways they could contribute to caring for the Earth locally.
“We listed items we use at school and thought about how we can reduce, reuse or recycle these items,” Strazzabosco said. “Then, we chose to recycle crayons. That prompted a study of how crayons are made, how many are made each year and what typically happens to crayons when users in homes, schools and restaurants are done with them.
Their research revealed most crayons, possibly as many as billions each year, end up in landfills.
With their research done, the students’ next steps included getting the word out to their peers at Kelley to collect old, broken crayons; learning how to make new crayons from the old ones; and deciding what to do with them.
“The students made posters, wrote letters to teachers and made announcements for KSK News about collecting the crayons,” Strazzabosco said. “Then, we applied what we know about crayon making to figure out how to recycle crayons. Students knew we would take the broken crayons, which are solids, and have to add heat to melt them into liquids. Then, we would have to cool the crayons to return them back into a new solid-shaped crayon. Finally, we decided the new crayons would be a great gift to the 2017-18 Kelley School third-grade class, creating a welcoming sense of community.”
Then came the actual recycling work, starting with third-graders peeling labels off from broken crayons, putting crayon pieces into molds, melting them in an old microwave oven and cooling the newly molded crayons.
The last step was to color labels designed by Whole School Enrichment teaching assistant Michele Vair and attach them to the new crayons.
The label says Kelley Pawsome Crayons, reinforcing the school’s acronym PAWS — pride, academic responsibility, working with adults and peers and safe and in control.
Third-graders working on the project in Strazzabosco’s enrichment classroom were sold on the crayon recycling and project.
“I think it’s really cool,” Marcel Gonzalez said while working on an informational poster. “Broken crayons are something you can remake into new crayons. It’s a good thing for the community and makes it a better place.”
“I think it’s pretty good,’’ Jazzlynn McDaniel said as she peeled crayons and prepared them for melting. “We get to donate them to kids coming into third grade.”
“It’s pretty nice, I like recycling,” Landon Burkhart said while working in the crayon molding and melting area.
“I think this is really cool, because if other people don’t have crayons we can help them out,’’ Jade Stoner said as she peeled labels off crayon pieces.
“I think it’s fun, because you get to melt the crayons and make them into new ones,’’ Robert Springer said.
Strazzabosco said is amazed at how many teachers — not just from Kelley — have donated broken crayons after learning about the third-graders’ project. She’s been equally amazed at how creative students’ messaging posters about the project have been.
Strazzabosco first learned about crayon recycling after reading online about a dad who wondered what happens to broken crayons children use to color with while waiting for their meals at restaurants. The father, Bryan Ware, founded The Crayon Initiative, which organizes crayon collections from restaurant and schools, remanufactures them and provides them to hospitals caring for children.
The current third grade decided to donate their recycled crayons, too. Many ideas were considered, and the final decision was to give them as a welcome gift to the new third-grade students when they come to the third-grade greeting night held in August.
“Hands-on learning sticks with kids,’‘ Vair said. “They remember and understand so much more of their experience. Repurposing rather than throwing away and giving back are two very important life lessons that our students will take away from having been a part of this lesson. It’s all meaningful stuff in so many ways.”