5 Genius Upcycling Projects for the Classroom

Teachers are experts at making the most of slim resources. A paper bag, some bath tissue, a few markers, and a little imagination, and they can sweep students on a journey between the stars or diving down through the deepest, darkest depths of the sea. Like modern-day alchemy, the process of turning trash into treasure is called upcycling… and there is a whole lot more to it than simply saving a buck.

Students who are taught early to upcycle aren’t just helping to reduce their classroom waste, they also learning valuable lessons about environmental sustainability, engineering, and creative problem solving!

Take a look at some of these awesome projects that you can use as the jumping-off point for your own student’s experiential education.

#1 Model ecosystem in a bottle

Recyclable bottles are the basis for all sort of fun activities, but here is one that keeps on delivering day after day. Introduce a little natural mystery to the classroom.

Check out how to make them over at GeoExchange.org, where you can also find all the materials you need to start building a lesson plan around the project!


#2 Popsicle bracelets

With a little boiled water and a mold (tea cups work perfectly), kids can turn old popsicle sticks into beautiful presents for friends and family. The folks over at MollymooCrafts.com have a fantastic tutorial full of images.


#3 Post it pinwheels

Post it notes and other scrap paper can make for beautiful (or spooky) pencil and pen decorations. Smartschoolhouse.com has a cool tutorial with lots of beautiful pictures. Kids will love how easy these are to make. Soon the classroom will be looking like a wind farm!


#4 Decorative crayon ornaments

Christmas is behind us, but these ornaments make a great gift for parents in any season. There is a great tutorial with video over at HeatheredNest.com. Kids can have fun crushing their old crayons and they will be amazed when the teacher adds the finishing touch with a hair dryer!


#5 Textbook animals

Did you know you can make all sorts of cute animals by recycling old textbooks? Hedgehogs, owls, penguins, cats, dogs, you name it! These cute little guys were made by the YouTube vloggers behind Alison’s Craft Channel. All you need to make your own is some glue and a pair of scissors. The possibilities are endless.



Whether you are at home, in a library, or at school, encourage you kids to find creative uses for whatever waste you have flagged for the dumpster. You may be surprised with what they invent on their own! For even more inspiration, head over to the projects page on the Nomad Press website, where you can find all sorts of fantastic STEM-related upcycling ideas.

Subscribe to Our Blog

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.