The Global Search for Education: More Materials for the Arts

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"Every day is Earth Day." --  Harriet Taub  

Materials for the Arts is one of those organizations you look at and say to yourself - it's so obvious - collect surplus materials from businesses and individuals and redistribute them to nonprofits with ongoing arts programming and schools - why doesn't every community have a recycling program like this one?

Harriet Taub, Executive Director for Materials for the Arts (which has become one of the largest reuse centers in the U.S.), has helped lead the organization for almost 18 years; she says that starting its education program is what she is most proud of. "When I came to MFTA in 1998, we were basically a collection and donation program. I knew early on that newly registered teachers would become better shoppers if they were shown ways to incorporate non-traditional arts materials into their classroom curriculum." So Harriet started by teaching 'hat making' and 'no sew' costume making workshops, and then, along with her Materials for the Arts colleague, Joy Suarez, began to offer week-long workshops for educators through the New York City Department of Education's Office of Professional Development.

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"Don't buy new things - create new, fashionable clothing from your torn and worn items." --  Materials for the Arts

So...fast forward 15 years: this dynamic hands-on studio-style Professional Development Workshop team now works with thousands of teachers and in turn, with tens of thousands of students through their workshops, free field trip program and in-school residencies. "Our Education Program is changing the way adults and children view materials and helping reduce the amount of unwanted materials headed for the landfill." And so, at Materials for the Arts, Harriet notes, "Every day is Earth Day."

We asked our MFTA experts to come up with 10 really innovative things anyone can do to protect our earth with a little bit of creativity:

  1. Turn your beverage containers into garden décor - e.g. glass bottles can be turned into terrariums. Plastic soda bottles - 1 litre - can be cut in half and the spout can be turned upside down for drainage, and plant inserted into the body of the bottle and placed in your garden or window box or curbside tree box. 

  • Junk mail envelopes can be turned into envelope books with string and magazine clippings.
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    "Old technology including CD's and CD cases can be repurposed into small desk calendars, wind-chimes, bases for collage; photo frames; frames for weavings with rubber bands." -- Materials for the Arts  

  • Don't buy new things - create new, fashionable clothing from your torn and worn items.  You can take strips of your woven clothing and weave them into new designs.

  • Old technology, including CD's and CD cases, can be repurposed into small desk calendars, wind-chimes, bases for collage; photo frames; frames for weavings with rubber bands.

  • Make musical instruments with plastic bottles filled with beads or beans. Metal coffee cans can be used for percussion instruments.  Bottle caps can be strung together to make hand held percussion instruments.

  • Puppets can be made out of washed chop sticks, fabric scraps, tassels, buttons or even hanging file folders - no one files paper anymore!
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    "Puppets can be made out of washed chop sticks, fabric scraps, tassels, buttons or even hanging file folders."  -- Materials for the Arts

  • Paper bags can be transformed into the bases for fabulous hats and headdresses or masks for plays and oral presentation in classrooms.
  • Cardboard boxes can be repurposed for storage (why buy plastic?) as well as lightweight furniture - tables and chairs for children.
  • Binders can be refashioned into portfolios, clutch handbags or birdhouses.
  • Take your extra string, buttons, beads, zippers, bottle caps, ribbon and paper clips to create personalized jewelry - necklaces, bracelets and pins.
  • This Earth Day and every day use your creativity to protect our planet: For More Information.

    (All photos are courtesy of Materials for The Arts and CMRubinWorld)

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    C. M. Rubin and Harriet Taub

    Join me and globally renowned thought leaders including Sir Michael Barber (UK), Dr. Michael Block (U.S.), Dr. Leon Botstein (U.S.), Professor Clay Christensen (U.S.), Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond (U.S.), Dr. MadhavChavan (India), Professor Michael Fullan (Canada), Professor Howard Gardner (U.S.), Professor Andy Hargreaves (U.S.), Professor Yvonne Hellman (The Netherlands), Professor Kristin Helstad (Norway), Jean Hendrickson (U.S.), Professor Rose Hipkins (New Zealand), Professor Cornelia Hoogland (Canada), Honourable Jeff Johnson (Canada), Mme. Chantal Kaufmann (Belgium), Dr. EijaKauppinen (Finland), State Secretary TapioKosunen (Finland), Professor Dominique Lafontaine (Belgium), Professor Hugh Lauder (UK), Lord Ken Macdonald (UK), Professor Geoff Masters (Australia), Professor Barry McGaw (Australia), Shiv Nadar (India), Professor R. Natarajan (India), Dr. Pak Tee Ng (Singapore), Dr. Denise Pope (US), Sridhar Rajagopalan (India), Dr. Diane Ravitch (U.S.), Richard Wilson Riley (U.S.), Sir Ken Robinson (UK), Professor Pasi Sahlberg (Finland), Professor Manabu Sato (Japan), Andreas Schleicher (PISA, OECD), Dr. Anthony Seldon (UK), Dr. David Shaffer (U.S.), Dr. Kirsten Sivesind (Norway), Chancellor Stephen Spahn (U.S.), Yves Theze (LyceeFrancais U.S.), Professor Charles Ungerleider (Canada), Professor Tony Wagner (U.S.), Sir David Watson (UK), Professor Dylan Wiliam (UK), Dr. Mark Wormald (UK), Professor Theo Wubbels (The Netherlands), Professor Michael Young (UK), and Professor Minxuan Zhang (China) as they explore the big picture education questions that all nations face today.
    The Global Search for Education Community Page

    C. M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, "The Global Search for Education" and "How Will We Read?" She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland, is the publisher of CMRubinWorld, and is a Disruptor Foundation Fellow.