When my eldest daughter was a kindergartener, I saved every single worksheet and drawing that she brought home. By the time school let out in May, I had a huge stack of slightly rumpled sheets that I couldn’t bear to throw away (look how she finally started making her “Rs” the right way!), but I also didn’t really have room to keep them all. I had to find a way to dispose of them, along with a slightly musty lunchbox, a box of crayons that had seen better days, pencils with their erasers worn away, and other detritus of the year.
My friend Lynn has an annual last-day-of-school bonfire for some things she can’t recycle in her area (“There’s something satisfying about roasting a hot dog over the embers of your Everyday Math book,” she says.). And while I like the symbolism of that, this year I’m going to put those supplies to good use by using them for fun summer craft projects. Sound appealing to you, too? Here’s my plan:
- Paper: Turn old worksheets or pictures into papier-mache projects or use them to make homemade paper.
- Crayons: Does every household have a shoebox of crayons in various stages of disrepair, or is it just me? When I amass enough, including those that come home in May, I love melting them down to turn them into cool crafts, from candles to suncatchers.
- Pencil Boxes and Cases: Once you’ve dusted the crayon crumbs and pencil shavings out of last year’s pencil case, it can come in handy to corral summer supplies during camp. Get trial-sized bottles of sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and body soap and create a summer camp or pool survival kit. Or fill it with a few crayons, a small notebook, and other supplies and keep it in the car for long rides. It’s also the perfect size for sleepover necessities, like a toothbrush, small toothpaste, soap, and a washcloth.
- Glue Sticks: Kill two birds with one stone: Used-up glue stick tubes, along with those broken crayon stubs, can be used to make new crayons in a twist-up tube.
- Pencils: If you’ve got a surplus of colored or regular graphite pencils that you know you won’t need next year, pull out a hacksaw and turn them into clever and beautiful jewelry (and maybe get a head start on teacher gifts for the next school year!).
- Notebooks and Blank Paper: Give new life to those half-filled notebooks or last scraps of loose-leaf paper by making them into new notebooks with decorative covers, perfect for giving as gifts or keeping in a purse or by the phone. You can use the backs of old worksheets and other school paperwork for homemade tear-away notepads.
For any supplies you’d rather recycle or donate, spend the last few weeks of school organizing a collection drive. The Crayola ColorCycle Initiative collects dried-up markers to recycle. Backpacks that are in good condition can be cleaned and donated to a shelter, while ones that are too beat-up to use can be given to a textiles recycler like World Wear Project. And Develop Africa accepts gently used school supplies for schoolchildren in Africa.