Assignment 1 – Give Trash a New Life

Our first assignment is inspired by a request from my 4-year-old who has been learning about taking care of our planet. She wanted to find something that we would typically throw out and instead make something new from it. Since it was her idea I wanted to make sure this was a project we could work on together but I encourage everyone to give this challenge a try if they have a young child assisting them or not.

My household goes through a lot of crayons! They travel from room to room, they get lost, they get used up but mostly they get broken. Over the weekend we began to separate the leftover nubs of colour from the ones that were still easy to use because nobody likes drawing with half an inch of crayon. We decided to make toddler-friendly crayon pucks that her little brother could easily control.

Here is how we did it:

1) We started by peeling the paper labels off each crayon and set them aside, this challenged my patience and my daughter’s small motor skills but we made it through.

2) We separated the crayons into their colour family into each section of a mini muffin tin.

3) I popped them into an oven preheated to 300ᵒC.

4) We waited 15 minutes before taking them out to cool. Once I saw that they had hardened again I flipped the tin upside down and gave it a bang. They fell out easily without leaving residue.

It felt a little wrong to throw out all the beautiful labels when the purpose was to reuse material so we ventured on to our second task; making paper. I had made paper once before when I was much closer to my daughter’s age than my own and I was excited to introduce her to the exhilarating world of DIY stationery. I wasn’t however excited to clean my blender after making pulp so we made some alterations to the process.

1) We ripped the crayon labels into smaller pieces and while we were at it added some colourful bit of the newspaper too.
2) Pour warm water (we used warm because it just felt right) into the bowl until all the paper is submerged.

3) We waited 10 minutes.

4) Then I ripped the paper until you barely recognize it and it just looked like mush.

5) I scooped the paper pulp out with my hands squeezing out excess water and placing the pulp on a piece of parchment paper. This was a bit tricky a sieve would have been a great help.

6) After laying another piece of parchment paper on top we used a rolling pin to flatten the surface.

7) Every so often we lifted the top layer of parchment paper to fill in any holes and to sop up the water that had been squeezed out.

8) Then we had to find a safe place to let it dry where it would be safe from curious two-year-olds.

To be honest I’m not sure what we are going to do with this piece of paper we’ve created. It is not easy to write on nor particularly beautiful, It is one of those projects that was fun to try but didn’t result in anything exceptionally special.

The crayons, however, have been a hot item around here and have been popular for their intended use as well as stacking and even substitutes for figurines in imaginative play.

Now I challenge you to rifle through your junk drawer or your recycling bin and see what innovations you can come up with yourself. If you do try this assignment I would love to hear about what you created in the comments.