School project time is here. And since R’s school is particularly eco-conscious, the kids are asked to use materials they already have at home. I think the assumption is that this will yield a model made of tissue boxes, paper towel rolls, and the like, which puts less stress on both the environment and parents.
I have a vivid memory of standing on the sidewalk last spring with a bunch of parents from K’s class. We had all just seen an exhibit of our children’s creative seder plates based on parallels between the biblical Exodus and the Underground Railroad.
“Did you see those projects?” One mom exclaimed, “Some of them looked really good. I thought the kids were just supposed to use things they found at home. Who just happens to have plaster of Paris and a plate mould sitting around in their house?”
Heads swivelled. “Well, okay,” one mom conceded, nodding at me, “you probably do.”
Now, as any of my regular readers could tell you, I’m a crafty DIY’er by nature. This means that if there’s a tool or type of material to be had, chances are pretty good that I have it. So yes, I’m the parent who says, “You need to make a seder plate? Sure. Use whatever you want from the craft room.” And then, when said plate is dry, “Of course you can paint it if you want! No, not those – those are watercolour. You need acrylics. They’re in the bin marked “painting”. Nope, not those ones. Those are washable. You want the permanent ones…” and so on.
You can see why my kids’ projects look a lot less like a masterpiece of reuse and a lot more like mommy hit the craft store pretty hard, which I did not. I’m pretty cheap and often lazy. Many of the things in my craft room were handed down to us by people with more disposable income and less storage space. Over the years we’ve adopted boondoggle, whole fabric stashes, sewing thread in all the colours of the manufacturer’s spectrum, glass and plastic beads, acrylic paints, and polyfill. While there are some things I actually buy myself (mostly paper, paints, and plasticene), many of the more exotic materials we have actually do happen to just be sitting around our house.
That’s how I ended up standing next to R, asking, “Do you want to take pictures of your project in progress? You know, so your teacher can see that this was made of old scrap paper before you painted it?” She declined and pointed out that she could just tell her teacher about all the reused materials that were used to create her model ecosystem.
But just in case, “I’m going to cover it with dirt, anyhow,” R explained. At least that’s one material that is obviously lying around the house, right?