Seven Brilliant School Projects Made from Recycled Materials

November has begun. Fall winds usher in more and more cold air, beckoning the arrival of winter — and with it, winter break. As terms begin to wind down in districts across America, teachers begin to shift from lectures to projects that demonstrate cumulative knowledge retention.

Energy Awareness Month may be over, but sustainable practices should always be a priority. These seven ideas for school projects made from recycled materials can accomplish educational goals while encouraging sustainability among students.



Physics: One of the more popular hands-on ways for students to learn about the forces of flight is to have them create their own homemade kites. Previously used rods or wood make for a perfect framework, and recycled paper or used fabrics can be used for the outer covering. The forces of lift, weight, drag and thrust are usually taught around eighth grade, so this project would show students practical ways to be sustainable before high school.

Math: This next project helps bridge the gap between math and science, as students are tasked with building an overpass with supplies that can withstand a certain weight. This project usually relies on toothpicks, but reusing washed popsicle sticks — and scaling the dimensions accordingly — provides an eco-friendly way for students to complete the task.

Engineering: High schoolers taking engineering classes are almost always given a chair assignment. The objective: create a functional chair out of nothing but cardboard and other limited materials. Instead of buying cardboard from retailers in bulk, teachers could opt to source recycled materials — e.g., used pizza boxes, packaging and poster boards — that students can donate in the months beforehand.


The Arts

Art Classes: It seems pretty obvious, right? Thanks to the wonders of contemporary art, almost anything can be considered art. Crafts featuring repurposed materials can engage student creativity while teaching them lessons in sustainability. Examples include mosaics built from old magazines, sculptures crafted out of soda cans, used ceiling tiles as canvases and collages made from newspaper clippings.

Theatre: What production is complete without costumes? Finding creative ways to incorporate recycled material into vibrant theatrical costumes gets students excited about working on the production crew and teaches a valuable lesson in sustainable practices. For the bulk of costume needs, theatre teachers can turn to secondhand clothing for a sustainable alternative to retail.


Life Skills

Economics: For future entrepreneurs, finding ways to sell environmentally viable products and services is an important part of running an ethical business. On the opposite side of the issue, many consumers care deeply about purchasing environmentally friendly products. To encourage sustainability awareness, educators can host an artificial market. Here, students take turns selling goods they’ve produced to their peers, implementing economic principles they’ve learned in real-time. To give a sustainable angle to this activity, students can be required to repurpose for resale items they might otherwise throw away.

Workshop: Compared to other classes, woodworking-based electives share a unique bond with the earth, as many of the supplies used are lightly treated resources directly from nature. Purchasing reclaimed lumber or finding another way to keep wood out of a landfill is a great way to demonstrate how to act sustainably.


Major creative assignments are an essential method of either reinforcing a concept to students or assessing whether they have genuinely learned it. School projects made from recycled materials serve to not only fulfill this educational requirement, but can encourage students to maximize the use of limited resources.

For your organization to create the maximum environmental impact, everyone — from the administration to students and teachers — has to be onboard. If you think your organization can do more to reduce its energy use and create a culture of accountability, contact us for more information at 1-855-798-7779 or visit


Submit a comment: