I made the mistake of asking my ridiculously supportive staff and families to start saving some of their toilet paper and paper towel rolls. My family alone probably saved over one hundred over the summer, so by the time we actually got around to using them, hundreds and hundreds were piled up in my classroom. I cannot imagine working in a school that didn't jump on board with excitement over every project and idea.
I saw an assortment of projects that made great use of these recycled items, but settled on one that would use up the most rolls because of the large amount I received. I showed fifth grade a short slideshow about the artist Louise Nevelson. The Nelson in Kansas City hosts a huge Nevelson that takes up an entire wall. She is famous for digging for recycled items in furniture warehouses. She assembled these parts and pieces into three-dimensional collages (assemblages) and spray painted them all one color, usually black or gold. I told the kids we were going to breathe some new life into toilet paper rolls. I got a few laughs. Not many, but some.
The assemblage above is my example that I created to give them a vision of the assignment. To begin, I gave them each their own grocery sack and they wrote their name on it. Storing this project was the biggest challenge. Then they were able to select 4 rolls and a color of paint. I literally just swung open the cabinets of paint and let them choose. I wanted them all to look very different and didn't want to limit them. (This also gave me huge brownie points with them because I kept hearing "WOW! Mrs. Byrd lets us get our own paint and choose our own color!" I found this funny because I was really just making them be responsible for their own stuff. I do plenty of choosing the rest of the day, so it's nice to shut that off for a bit.)
It took them two class periods to paint their tubes with several coats. Some color were more opaque than others and seemed to work a lot better. I had some metallic paint that looked awesome. I think if I did this again, I would order more metallic paint and make them all use it. They stored their tubes on top of their bags after they got done painting each day, then I slipped them in the bags the next morning and threw them in a class tub. A little bit of work on my part, but they really love hands-on projects like this, so to me, it was worth it.
The third and final day of the project, they glued all their pieces together, and I threw in some extras like "Woodsies" (Popsicle stick shapes) and pipe cleaners. I reminded them about the name sculptures they made at the beginning of the year and how we tried to make an interesting composition where the parts and pieces interacted. Elmer's glue did the trick as long as they were patient enough to let it dry as they went. They glued the pieces to thick card stock I found in the closet. I wish the had time to paint the background the same color, but that also presented the issue of the wet side curling under as it dried.
I loved how creatively they used scissors to manipulate the tubes. One girl fringed the ends of all of her tubes. Another cut it open like the twisted tube of canned cinnamon rolls. I hung a few on the wall, but only on the top half of the bulletin board. I figured any lower would be too risky with all the curious little hands that wait in line for the restroom by this board.
Here are some up-close shots of some of the finished products. I love when kids end up giving me ideas for ways to make projects more creative. I never even thought to use the scissors so creatively. This seems to happen to me even more so with the younger kids. Their creativity has no bounds. It's amazing!