Observe Earth Day with Art Projects Made from Recycled Materials

Creative hands-on art project ideas that are easy on the earth and easy on a teacher’s budget.

By Christen Amico

Earth in the shape of a heart

Celebrating Earth Day can be more than just planting trees and picking up trash. Children need to learn the importance of conserving our world’s natural resources and recognizing the simple artistic beauty found all around us. In a world filled with high-priced tablets and cell phones that become outdated within a few months, teachers and parents should take some time to embrace nature and celebrate planet Earth.

Recycled Robots

Begin by asking children to save many of the items that they would normally throw away, such as cereal boxes, milk cartons, water bottles, and other packaging. All these items would typically end up in the garbage, can but now can be used to create art. Cereal boxes make great bodies, water bottles work well for arms, and egg cartons can be creative heads. After taping (not gluing) these items together to a robot, children can create the metallic look by wrapping the robots in aluminum foil (the recycled kind would be best, of course). Lastly, the robots can be decorated using buttons, stickers, wiggly eyes, etc. Display these recycled robots to demonstrate a great way of turning trash into art!

Nature Collage

Take children on a walk around the school, park, or neighborhood to collect nature items such as flowers, leaves, rocks, seeds, pine cones, or acorns. Arrange the objects on a sturdy piece of cardboard (cut from boxes or repurposed from other packages) and use hot glue to adhere them to the board in a creative way. Encourage learners to create patterns or pictures with their items, rather than just place them randomly. For added vocabulary practice, help kids label their items. They can also decorate their collages using paint, glitter, or stickers. This lesson can be extended by having each artist write about his collage or graph how many of each object he used in his creation.

Rain Sticks

Wrap an empty paper towel roll in tissue paper, including covering one end. Glue the tissue onto the roll. Fill the tube tiny balls of foil, rice, leftover screws, nails, coins, and other small metal items that would make a clinking sound. Cover the top with layers of tissue paper and glue it closed. Turn the creation upside down to recreate the sound of rain. This is a simple rain stick. Consider following up this project with a class discussion about the history of rain sticks and how Native Americans used them in hopes of communicating with the rain gods. 

Paper Mache Globes

Your pupils can create a globe by blowing up a balloon and covering it with paper mache (mixture of newspaper strips, flour and water). Newspaper is a great recyclable art supply and is often readily donated to schools. Once your kids have finished the paper mache balloon, allow a few days for the globes to dry.  Finish them by painting the continents and oceans so they actually resemble the world. If your pupils prefer, they can trace the continents onto construction paper, cut out the shapes, and then glue them onto their painted globes. Be sure your artists label the continents and bodies of water. Once they are finished, the globes can be hung around the room to celebrate Earth Day!

Exciting Activities to Celebrate Earth Day:

Extend Earth Day with the Wump World

Check out this great article on using literature to continue the discussion on environmentalism. The author includes a variety of useful teaching points, project ideas, and ways to connect the book to the real world.

Natural Resources Matter

Use this packet of worksheets and crossword puzzles to help teach kids that everything is made from something. Links to websites and other useful resources are also included.


Young scientists will enjoy discovering the water cycle, clouds, and storms through this useful packet of fact sheets, crossword puzzles and fill-in-the-blank activity pages. A colorful packet filled with tons of lesson ideas that would be great for any weather unit.

More Earth Day Project Ideas

Here are lots of fun ideas for celebrating Earth Day. Ideas include using junk mail for creative projects.