UpCycle is a winner of ACTion Alexandria's Green Ideas Challenge 2015. The organization's idea for making Alexandria a greener, more sustainable place to live, work, and play was to help seventy kindergarteners and ten teachers at Cora Kelly School learn and create with "trash." UpCycle demonstrated to children and teachers that waste materials can be a resource for scientific observations and artistic expression.
UpCycle Creative Reuse Center is an Alexandria City based arts materials resource center and a creative making space that encourages creativity, critical thinking, innovation and environmentally sustainable behavior. UpCycle rethinks the notion of waste, collecting cast-offs from our community to serve as creative art materials. UpCycle collects, organizes and prepares items for use in a variety of creative capacities and makes them available to the public at affordable prices. UpCycle demonstrates that artistic creativity and conservation go hand in hand through creative reuse.
Creative reuse is an effective response to ever-filling landfills, over production, and diminishing natural resources. Creating shifts in our community's behavior when it comes to waste reduction starts with our educating youngest citizens about their ability to make a difference.
In May 2015 as a part of UpCycle's green ideas grant, co-founders Susan Miranda and Kelley Organek visited each of the four kindergarten classrooms at Cora Kelly for scientific explorations. Children played a guessing game with materials from UpCycle's shop by placing their hands into a container and describing the properties of one of the items without looking at it. Students used words like flat, round, smooth, bumpy, and cold to share the properties of the materials with their classmates. Students then guessed what the items could be before the true identities were revealed. Many of the items were common, everyday objects like cork, plastic lids, CDs and metal screws. By describing the properties of the objects without looking at the objects, Susan and Kelley were able to engage students in a discussion about what the materials could be used for, i.e., "What can a round, smooth, plastic object for used to create?" and not exclusively focus on what the items once were.
Susan and Kelley gave each teacher the book My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks by Hanoch Piven to read aloud before their next visit. This book depicts a girl who makes portraits of her family members using found objects. Students were also encouraged to consider what waste items they had at home that could be used for creating and they were invited to bring these items to school to compile a reuse collection in their art classroom.
Susan and Kelley's subsequent visits took place in the art room where students were invited to create a portrait out of reuse materials. Small bits (bottle caps, fabric scraps, etc.) from UpCycle's shop were displayed for the students. Susan and Kelley talked about the parts of the face to help children focus their collection of items needed for their portraits. After students selected their materials, they made a plan for their portraits by laying the materials on boards. If all of the parts of the face were there, the students were provided glue to make it permanent.
UpCycle's unit offered students an exploratory and playful way to discover the properties of materials and consider creative reuse as an alternative to throwing items away. Many students brought items from home or saved containers from lunch to add to the materials collection. Furthermore, students were able to learn vocabulary words through hands-on scientific explorations and art experiences.
The Green Ideas Challenge 2015 grants were generously funded by The Dominion Foundation.