Monday, July 26, 2010


During the regular school year, I only have a little over $100 per month to spend on curriculum supplies, which includes art supplies, toys, sensory and science materials, manipulatives, you name it. Our community is fully capable of fundraising when we want something special, but teaching day-to-day in a cash-strapped preschool requires flexing those mighty middle class bag lady muscles.

We, the early childhood educators, are in the vanguard of the "reduce, reuse, recycle" movement and we have been since way before there was a movement. We all hoard, gather, and collect. It's the single thing, perhaps even second to our love for children, that binds us all together across the nation, around the globe, and throughout history.

If you've been reading here lately, you'll know I've been on a "tree part" art/toy building kick lately (Tree Part Construction Set, Tree Part Balancers, A Bottle Bush, A Cookie Tree, Tree Blocks). I gave credit to  Ariella over at Childhood Magic for setting me on this course, but if it hadn't been for my reluctance to dispose of the cedar branches I'd been pruning from our trees at home and piling up against the fence in a part of the yard where my wife wouldn't spot them, it couldn't have happened.

Everything, I've found, has at least one more use in it. Case in point: plastic flats from the nursery, and some chicken wire fencing I had left over from making our tape dragon become a painting/printing project with a built-in fine motor component.

You can paint inside the holes, or . . .

. . . right on the grid itself . . .

. . . but when you make a print only some of the paint gets on your paper.

Even better, all we had to do is leave the flats and chicken wire out in the rain and they're ready to go for next time.

And speaking of leaving stuff out in the rain, the canvases we used for the super sized marble paintings had already been painted and repainted for months . . .

. . . only to be washed clean and made new simply by the act of leaving them outdoors.

Garage sales are an obvious haunt for us middle class bag ladies, but even more exciting are the piles of random items that show up on the curbside with a "Free" sign attached. This weekend I scored big time.

All those wood screws are probably too small for us to use for anything other
than collage, but the container is awesome. What I love most about it is that
it is a very clever homemade container: the kind that would make perfect
holiday gifts for friends and family.

I think I'll let the kids decide how to use this sturdy, tongue 
and groove box.

These large chunks of wood remind me of a score shared
by scavenging master Kitten Muffin over at Filth Wizardry
Her kids made blocks out of them.

I've already used some of these clean wood scraps to
experiment with the rope making machine about which Kami
over at Get Your Mess On! recently posted.

This is some sort of tongue and groove paneling or flooring that I can imagine
the kids fitting together to make all kinds of stuff.

2X4s? Who throws out 2X4s, the single most useful cut
of wood known to man?

These might have been aluminum vases of some sort.

I'm picky when it comes to collecting toys, but this is a solid metal road
grater with moving parts. Sweet!

I'm really eager to wrap up this post and get my new finds into the school, but I have a mission for you, should you choose to accept it, my mighty bag lady colleague.

Isn't this a beautiful sensory table set up?

I can't remember where I got all that ground glass, but I've had it for years. It's such a visually appealing substance, but I can no longer use it like this. We've not had any injuries, but unless a child dries her hands very, very, very completely after washing up -- which rarely happens -- these tiny bits of broken glass stick to the skin where all it will take is a single rub of the eyes to transfer it to a place where it can do some damage.

I'm not throwing it out. What would you do with it?

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Cathy @ NurtureStore said...

Hi Tom, Could you embed it in some dough or clay to give a sparkle effect when the material dries? You could make tiles for a mosaic or for a path outside.

Eternal Lizdom said...

I wonder if you can seal it up inside a container and have hidden objects within. Then you have to move the container around to find all the little toys and surprises inside. It's beautiful but you're right- not good for little hands. I've seen those "I Spy" containers done with plastic bottles and sealed with a glue gun.

Scott said...

Oh, Tom. Now I need to go to the nursery and get some of those flats. I've never seen that type of painting experience...and I think the kids would love it.

I think the idea of I Spy bottles would be a great use for your ground glass. Kristin at preschool daze did something similar with rice and bottles.

You could also seal it in clear containers to make some colorful shakers (rhythm instruments).

Anonymous said...

Could you use the glass inside of "rain sticks?"

-- BethanyBob

Fiona Johnson said...

I would think that the glass would be great to make musical instruments. Great for shakers. Or you could use it to make beutiful patterend bottles if you also use coloured sand (mix playsand with paint) and fill up clear plastic bottles in layers of different colours.


pink and green mama MaryLea said...

Mix it with Quickcrete and make stepping stones for the outdoor playground.

or...mix it with clay and find a friend with a kiln (would be beautiful mixed in pinch pots or clay tiles....I'm assuming the glass would melt. I used to use glass marbles in the eyes of our clay frogs and gargoyles when I was a teacher -- they were really cool!

I see some dyed blue riceor fish gravel in your sensory box future! : )

Anonymous said...

Such great ideas. Those "I Spy" things are all over right now. Neat idea to make your own.
You could also try it as a neat substance for gluing projects. Or it could be used similar to colorful sand to make sand art in small bottles.
LOVE the painting ideas. Flat hunting will be in my future!

SquiggleMum said...

Agree on the Eye Spy containers, or what about DIY egg timers / hourglasses? Kids love seeing what they can do before a timer runs out...

Deborah said...

I love the I Spy idea - you could make a great big eye spy for your class - I am sure you could fine a way:)

mgiltner said...

I think you could do some beautiful glue paintings with them or use the glue painting concept but do their names so that they will still have a piece of it. I like the stepping stone idea, they could carve into the concrete before it sets and pour the glass in. Or have them decorate the outside of a container with it, like a flower pot, a totem or whatever they fancy. You could make a paste they had to trowel on.

Centers and Circle Time said...

I'm praying for a storage area (outside my house) to keep all my cool finds!

Keep your eyes peeled for "free" vases or pick up some from the dollar store. Pour your ground glass in the vase more than halfway. Stick in an artificial flower and tie a ribbon with a small card around the vase. Send them home to parents for special occasions.

Shelly said...

Great ideas for the glass... but what really caught my eye was that road grader. Charlie is going to freak out tomorrow!

Tracy said...

I see everybody has already suggested I spy bottles and shakers... maybe kalidescopes?

Play for Life said...

What about a tornado bottle. Our children love the ones we fill with glitter. Your ground glass could be interesting!
Then again melted into fired clay would be totally irresistible, especially if it was melted into the children's hand prints ... and a nice reminder of time with Teacher Tom!
Donna :) :)

village mama said...

great new to me blog! the children at your school and the community are so blessed to have you in their lives :-)

Anonymous said...

I've heard of it being used as grout in a flagstone walkway, or maybe mulch. But maybe not at school.