The Economics of National Craft Month
Combine National Craft Month and economic math while producing some imaginative, innovative crafts.
By Ann Whittemore
I am a crafter at heart. I think most teachers are in one way or another, and we bring our love of crafting projects into the classroom. I heard about National Craft Month last year but didn’t really know what it was, or how it began. After a little research, I found some interesting facts that got me thinking about creative ways to incorporate crafts into my classroom.
In 1994, the Craft & Hobby Association (CHA) announced the first National Craft Month. It was originally intended to boost involvement in crafts and hobbies, which would also increase sales for craft and hobby retailers. These retailers were able to hold events which boosted sales and increased revenue while propagating the love of crafting.
I already knew the numerous benefits of crafting; it relieves stress, rewards creative thinking, increases socialization, creates a bonding experience for those who are crafting, and it is really fun! But as a teacher, I began to think about the economic implications of this month-long craft bonanza. I pondered the following question: Is there an economically feasible way for me to incorporate National Craft Month into my classroom lessons?
A Thrifty Approach to National Craft Month
Craft supplies cost money. My students enjoy craft projects. I wondered how I could feasibly combine these two realities. Why not have my class determine the costs of supplies for given craft projects and then think about their findings on a large market scale? We could discuss how marketing something like National Craft Month increases demand, and therefore increases the need for supplies. We could also work on real world math problems in a real world context. This scenario, cost benefit, real world math, supply and demand, and art can all be combined to develop some creative, pertinent, and memorable lessons.
I broke the class into crafting groups. Each group looked online for a craft project they’d like to do. They then drew up a list of the items they would need to complete one project. Next, they researched the cost of each item and multiplied the number of items needed for everyone in the class to do that project. They were astounded to discover out how quickly the cost of craft supplies adds up! Then, as an extension, I had them calculate what it would cost for every child in our school to complete that craft project. Each group made a simple poster that displayed their data and shared it with the class. After looking at the groups' findings, we had a class discussion about how an idea like crafting, can be turned into a marketable commodity. We also discussed and what a retailer might need to do to encourage more people to buy their products. This was beneficial for two reasons: the students were able to grasp an aspect of market economy while also coming to an understanding of why our classroom materials are limited.
Real-World Math Fused with National Craft Month
Of course, we couldn't just research and discuss crafts and stop there. Student interest was piqued; we had to actually do some crafts! In celebration of National Craft Month, we did one craft project each week (described below). For each project, I provided the class with the cost of materials. They had to determine how much money was spent on four projects for one class in a months’ time. As before, I had them determine the amount we’d have to spend to allow every child in school to do those same four projects. We then calculated the amount of revenue generated if everyone in the state completed those same four projects in a months’ time. Older kids can do some more advanced real-world math by trying to determine the estimated annual revenue that would be generated by a school (or the whole state) doing these four crafts. They can also work to discover the margin between the revenue and the overhead costs of stocking and running a craft store. They could even compare annual craft retailers actual annual revenue in comparison to annual estimated expenses to see how much money a store like Michael’s makes each year.
Four Project Ideas for National Craft Month
I usually like to do craft projects that connect to my class curriculum, but for National Craft Month, I felt I should keep in the spirit by choosing crafts that were just fun to make and cool to look at.
Craft 1: Collage Mat Board Frame
Materials: Decoupage, Mat board cut into frame shapes, magazines, buttons, hot glue, newspapers, scrap paper, cups, old paint brushes, various small, but interesting 3D items (e.g. buttons, sequins).
- Cut the mat board into 8x10 rectangles, cutting out the center (to make a frame).
- Have learners use the decoupage to glue on torn paper from the magazines and newspapers.
- When they are dry, hot glue three-dimensional items such as buttons, sequins, dried flowers, jewels, and/or stickers onto the frame.
These are great for Mother’s Day, to frame a poem, or to put on the front of students' portfolio folders.
Craft 2: Spring Mobiles
Materials: Medium sized embroidery hoops (try to get these in bulk from a craft store or website), ribbon, buttons, beads, origami paper, felt, sea shells, embroidery thread, sewing thread, or fishing line.
- Hot glue one end of the ribbon onto the hoop.
- Have the kids wrap the ribbon around the hoop, covering it completely and neatly.
- Hot glue the end to hold it in place.
- Have kids choose one spring theme to make and hang from their mobile. Here are few ideas: paper cranes, button/felt flowers, sea shells, paper butterflies, or origami flowers. Note: I love the paper cranes but don’t recommend having children under nine years old make them, they can be very frustrating.
- After making their themed items, they will string five or six of them on a long thread. They will likely have to use a needle to get the string through the appropriate place on the craft/dangling item.
- Repeat with eight different strands of thread.
- Tie each length of string onto the hoop at four equidistant points.
- Add an additional string of items in between each of the four points to create eight balanced, dangling strings.
- Tie ribbon at two points on the hoop, leading up and tie them together to create the hanger.
Craft 3: Chalkboard Flower Pots
Materials: Chalkboard paint, acrylic paint, brushes, modge podge, small to medium terracotta pots, ribbon, glue, seeds or herbs, potting soil, chalk.
- Allow each child to paint the border on his pot and seal the art with modge podge.
- Have kids come to you in groups of two or three to paint the rest of the pot with black chalkboard paint.
- Allow the paint to dry for a day.
- The next day, have kids glue a piece of ribbon to the inside of the pot (this is where they will tie on a piece of chalk).
- Plant either seeds or herbs in the pot.
- The kids can use the chalk to label what they planted, write a haiku, or a special note on their pots. You can also use this as a gift, while cutting down on the mess, by skipping the planting and just putting an new pack of seeds in the pot.
Craft 4: Paper Mache Bowls
Materials: balloons, paper mache paste, old comics, very old picture books, magazines, envelopes, candy wrappers, paint brushes, Vaseline, new paper.
- Blow up a balloon, spread it with Vaseline and cover it with paste.
- Place it upside down in a cup or jar (so it will stand on end).
- Cover it with 5-7 layers of ripped newspaper and paste, but only the bottom half, not the entire balloon.
- Pop the balloon and remove it from the dried paper mache, and then trim the rough edges.
- Make a base for the bowl by taping a strip of cardboard 2” wide to the bottom so the bowl stands up.
- Now have your class use the comics, candy wrappers, and old book pages to cover their bowls in the same way they did with the newspaper; modge podge can be used, it gives the bowl an artistic and finished look.
- The result is an awesome pop art-ish bowl for any occasion!
Craft projects are fun and invite creative thinking without kids feeling stressed because they don't think they have enough artistic talent to make cool stuff. It’s also a great way to bring parent involvement into the classroom. For every class project, I solicit help from at least a few parents, they love it and so do the kids. To help manage the cost of these and other craft projects I suggest looking for community aid, holding an art supply drive at school, look for school freebies from large chain retailers, or ask parents for donations of old or unused art/office supplies. However you manage it, take the time to recognize National Craft Month with your class. Everyone will benefit from the experience.