Kids craft art from scrapheap
By LANCE ROBERTSON At The Register-Guard

It started out as a jumble of old wires. But by the end of teacher Tasha Katsuda's physical sciences and environment class at Jefferson Middle School, students had created an assortment of flowers, butterflies, headphones and other colorful creations. "Hey, I made a flower," said Lisa Fehsenfeld, 11, putting the finishing touches on an orange rosebud at the top of her wire art. Art in a science class? Sure, as long as students are getting a valuable lesson in how to use recycled materials and the importance of reusing trash, ranging from cereal boxes to old compact discs, says Sarah Grimm, education coordinator for BRING Recycling. "The best way to reach kids about recycling and reuse is through craft activities," Grimm says. "Kids just have a huge natural instinct that draws them toward using these materials creatively." Grimm has been doing in-classroom presentations for about three years.
But the nonprofit recycling agency recently stepped up its recycled-art-in-the-schools effort with the creation of a new program called the Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts. The idea is to develop a community center in Eugene that has an arts workspace for the public, where teachers and artists can go to get scrap materials for their projects, and where MECCA can run its educational programs. MECCA also runs training workshops where participants are given instruction, tools and materials to create useful, artistic items out of scrap materials. The center also has started "community art nights," where individuals create art and useful items. The art nights are held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Station 7, the youth center run by Looking Glass at 2485 Roosevelt Blvd. The center is looking for a permanent home, says Lizzy Hughes, who is coordinating the program.

She and other volunteers are also looking for funds and benefactors. "Our goal is to have more creative arts options in Eugene," Hughes says. BRING, which processes about 90 percent of the recycled paper, plastic and other waste put out by residences at curbside, could make tons of scrap art materials available to local schools, senior centers, youth groups, everyday citizens and artists, Hughes says. Grimm's classroom presentations illustrate the broad range of materials that can be used. In Katsuda's Jefferson Middle School class recently, she put piles of wire, wallpaper, cardboard cereal boxes and sticky-backed vinyl used by sign shops on tables in front of the 28 middle-schoolers. But first, a little lecture. She asks the students, "What do we need to live?" The students know their stuff. "Water," one says, followed by food, oxygen and shelter. That gives Grimm the opening she needs. Ever so slowly, we're incurring damage to the Earth that threatens those basic needs, she says, adding, "Recycling is a way we can avoid the damage caused by extracting natural resources." Eighty-four percent of all trash goes into landfills or is recycled after a single use, she says, "and that's really sad." Then she starts pulling materials out of a garbage can she's brought into the classroom: milk jugs that have been made into funnels and a ball-catch game; old water bottles and plastic rings that are made into a ring-toss game; cereal boxes that are decorated or made into picture frames; compact discs that are reused and designed as greeting cards; old T-shirts that are remade into hats; old wallpaper that is used to make book covers; magazine pages used to decorate cards. "There are lots of ways to reuse these instead of throwing them away," she says. Teachers like the program. Katsuda says that by the time kids are in middle school, they already have a lot of awareness about recycling, "but this puts a creative touch on the message." Judy Bowers, a middle school teacher in the Crow-Applegate-Lorane School District west of Eugene, says "the seventh-graders just took off on it" when Grimm was in her classroom. "It allowed them to be creative and at the same time showed them you don't have to throw everything away," says Bowers, who teaches a variety of classes at the middle school. The project has had lasting results, she says. "Now kids in my cooking class say, 'Should I keep this?' They never used to say that. It has made them more aware of how they can reuse things."
Anyone interested in the MECCA program can call Hughes at 302-1810.
Teachers or community members interested in BRING's educational program can call Grimm at 746-3023.

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