These two rubbish clearance activity projects are inspired by a KQED Art School video featuring Nigel Poor, a socially engaged artist who lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. KQED is a public media television and radio station based in San Francisco California.
Rubbish Clearance Project #1: Litter Picking Sculpture
This first project is aimed at helping children understand how to transform rubbish and litter into new objects with a higher purpose. In this case, they will turn rubbish and litter into an interesting sculpture, which could be viewed as a work of art, a social message, or both. You can explain to the children that this is a good way to make people perceive the rubbish or litter in a different way, as something of value rather than as something to toss in the bin, or worse, toss on the ground. You can also explain that this is a good method of keeping rubbish and litter out of the landfills. You can also teach them the term “upcycle” and contrast this with the term “recycle.”
To create an interesting sculpture from rubbish and litter to give it a higher purpose and perceived higher value.
- Reusable Litter Bag
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Small piece of stiff cardboard from your recycle bin folded in half
- Kid friendly arts and crafts materials including at least glue and scissors
- Optional: rubber gloves, rubber bands, string, wire, basic hardware tools like pliers and hammer
Take the kids out for a thirty minute to one hour walk each day for six consecutive days, litter picking as you go along. You can also have them stop at litter bins to see if there are any items that really captivates their imagination in the bins. At the end of each walk, have them select one or two items, the most interesting item(s), to put aside for the sculpture they will be creating.
On the seventh day, have the kids lay out the items they’ve set aside for the sculpture. Engage them in conversation about the items to get their creative juices flowing. Is there any relationship between the items? Does the shape or form of any of the items remind them of something else? Why do they think these items ended up in rubbish clearance?
Assisting when needed, but allowing the kids to come up with their own direction and ideas, ask the kids to create an interesting sculpture from the items. Encourage them to transform the objects into something totally new and different than what the objects currently represent.
When they are finished, ask them to give their sculpture a creative name. Then, have them neatly print this name on the stiff cardboard folded in half. Next, have them sign their name like a professional artist would.
Display their sculpture in a prominent place in your home, along with the label showing the name of their sculpture and their signature. When friends and family notice the sculpture, give your young artist an opportunity to talk about their work and how they turned rubbish into a work of art! You may want to brag on them a little too!
Variations To the Litter Picking Sculpture Project
If you want to turn this into a one day project, you can simply have the kids select seven or more objects from the litter they pick on a single litter picking excursion. If you want to make this project more memorable, try beach combing for litter or litter picking as part of a day hike on a nature trail.
Rubbish Clearance Project #2: Rubbish Archeologist
Depending on the age of the children, you may need to explain what an archeologist does in simple terms. You can tell them that archeologists are like detectives trying to solve the mystery of who people are and what makes them tick. They study what people leave behind to document where they were, how they lived, their rituals, their customs, and their every day life. You can then explain that going through a person’s rubbish is much the same.
Save all personal rubbish clearance for an entire week and use this to study one’s own life from an archeologist’s perspective, finding ways to reduce rubbish as one of the take away lessons, but also to learn more about oneself.
- Bin bag or reusable litter Bag
- Ziplock bags or sealable transparent plastic containers - Old blanket or large piece of paper or cardboard
- Optional: Magnifying glass
Tell the kids they are going to be rubbish archeologists. Instead of throwing their personal rubbish in the dustbin or litter bin, for one entire week, have the kids save their rubbish in a bin bag or reusable litter bag. For items like tissues or dental floss, where hygiene may be an issue, have the kids put this rubbish in sealed ziplock bags or sealable transparent plastic containers.
Remind them when needed that they can’t throw any rubbish in the bin — that they must save everything. They can only put their rubbish in their personal bin bag for that one week.
At the end of the week, have the kids spread out their items on a blanket so they can be studied. Leave the items in the zip lock bags sealed for hygienic purposes. Ask the kids if they see any patterns to their rubbish. If so, ask them to sort their rubbish into categories. There are no rules here so just let them pick the categories so it helps them make sense of it in a way an archaeologist would do. Does it indicate what their activities are for the week, and if so, what were they? Are they surprised by anything they see? Did they learn anything new about themselves? Finally, as they look over their own personal rubbish for the week, can they think of any ways they could reduce the amount of rubbish they produce. For example, if they use a lot of disposable tissues, could they substitute non-disposable handkerchiefs for some purposes?
Variations To the Rubbish Archeologist Project
This rubbish clearance activity project would likely be more fun with a group of kids, each filling up their own personal bin bags for a week, and then getting together to study each other’s rubbish from an archeologist’s perspective. To do this as a group, you could either team up with other parents or suggest this activity to your child’s school teacher to see if he or she might like the entire class to participate.
Please Post Your Results To Clearabee’s Facebook Page
Clearabee is always delighted to hear about kids learning more about reducing rubbish output and keeping rubbish out of our landfills. Please share your results with Clearabee on their Facebook page and with other parents. Let’s give the younger generations a brighter future!