Making can be messy. In addition to students deeply engaged in learning, the products of making often includes scraps of paper, unused electrical components, and even blobs of 3D printed plastic.

While it might not be possible to take the mess out of making, we encourage you to consider how you might minimize the waste that can come with it. In recognition of Earth Day, we challenge you to think about your space and the making that happens. How do you prevent waste? How do you creatively reuse materials?  How do your students think about making and sustainability?

Here are some ideas for incorporating sustainability into your space:

Finding materials for your space

When stocking your space, think about how you are acquiring materials. Instead of purchasing new equipment and consumables, think about places in your community where you might find them used or recycled.

  • Watch this Ask A Maker Educator episode, featuring Donna Sangwin, Founder and Executive Director of ReCreate for inspiration. ReCreate is a nonprofit organization based in Roseville, California that focuses on sustainable maker education.
  • Check out this Spotlight on Creative Reuse on Maker Ed’s blog
  • Other places to find materials include: recycling centers, thrift stores, and big box stores (for cardboard). Search for creative reuse centers in your area like RAFTReCreate, and Scrap.

Planning projects

One way to make sustainability a focus when designing maker projects is to carefully plan for the appropriate amount of each material needed. Of course, you may still end up with more of certain materials than your students end up using. Consider how your students might use these leftovers for future projects. Better still, brainstorm project ideas with your students and let your extra materials be a creative constraint for the design. If a student has an idea to make something using a material you don’t have in your space, challenge them to consider how they might use the materials they have to make up for one they might not have access too.

Celebrate Earth Day by hosting a sustainability design challenge for your school community. Is there a significant amount of trash leftover after lunch? Does your school recycle and compost? Challenge students to design a solution to these problems and implement it.

Read these examples from Maker VISTAs who work with students on projects focused on understanding sustainability and model making sustainably through their own creative solutions:

Start the conversation with students

Build sustainable habits by creating a set of norms or protocols for students to use while making to help prevent waste. Create these processes with your students by starting a discussion with these questions:

  • What do you think it means to be mindful? What does it mean to be mindful of the materials in our space? Of the environment?
  • How do you pick and choose materials to use for your project? What do you do with leftover materials? Where can you reuse old materials first rather than new ones? Where can you use biodegradable supplies rather than plastics, etc?
  • How can we remind ourselves and encourage our classmates to prevent wasting materials? How can we ensure that everyone follows these same set of norms?

Inspire other maker educators by sharing your ideas for creating sustainable making practices using the hashtag #MakerPromise.