My first Artist-in-Residence project for the new school year is teaching fourth and fifth graders at Camden Elementary to make their own sketchbooks. In previous years, students have used a composition notebook for this purpose, but the art teacher and I loved the idea of this lesson within a lesson (and it’s just plain cool).
We discussed this project last spring, so I had all summer to gather materials – a good thing, considering there are a total of 160 fourth and fifth graders at this school. Let that sink in a moment. We are creating something intended for practical use in the classroom, using 100% donated, 100% free materials, instead of buying 160 notebooks.
At first, gathering materials proved more difficult than I expected – not for lack of donated books, but because most discarded hardback books are adult reading material (murder mysteries, romance) and have questionable content for 9- and 10-year old eyes. So, I focused on finding reference books and non-fiction and by early August I had enough that I wasn’t overly worried.
The week before school started, I sent an email to the media specialists at each of our schools’ libraries, hoping they might have a few cast-offs to help round out my numbers. As is often the case, I got what I needed, just when I needed it. The media specialist at LaGrange Elementary recently purged her school’s library and she had gobs of juvenile books to give away. I ended up setting aside the piles of books I’d been prepping all summer (just more obtainium for my barn!) and took these vintage beauties to school with me today.
The art teacher and I talked with the students about upcycling and creative reuse, and the meaning of the word potential. Then the students “shopped” from the piles of discarded books. You’d have thought they were in a toy store – so much joy and such careful thought put into each selection. I wish I could show you pictures of all the clever ways they’re recovering these books.
Some sought balance in their design:
Others sought bling:
I can only imagine what the insides will look like come May.
I’ll teach them all of the techniques I experimented with for the upcycled art journals I made earlier this year. And I have no doubt they’ll teach me a few things before we’re through.
I promise to keep you posted!