Walters Junior High features a recycling program that pairs every trash can on campus with a recycling bin. Teachers and students alike participate in creative reuse projects to transform waste through traditional craft projects such as crocheting tote bags from reused plastic bags and making purses out of juice containers. Walters is developing an educational garden to teach composting and biology and enjoys an active partnership with students from Kennedy High School who frequently assist in Walters' green efforts.
In celebration of Dia de los Muertos, students in Darlene Wilhelm's art classes tackled a range of projects incorporating salvaged and repurposed materials.
Foods teacher Judi McDowell provided empty one gallon milk jugs for the art students to transform into decorated skeletons.
The school's custodian collected discarded "pizza rounds" – the cardboard disk under each school pizza-for students to make cut-out "sugar skulls."
McDowell also provided salvaged Styrofoam blocks which students carved into print blocks to crate Dia de los Muertos themed prints.
The collection of work will be displayed starting November 6th at StopWaste.Org, the Alameda County Waste Authority.
A special collection of the work will be exhibited aboard Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior at a public art event on Veteran's Day in San Francisco.
Milk Jug Skeleton Instructions:
Last year, intern Melissa Isaacs reviewed numerous websites (see below) that provide instructions for converting milk jugs into skeletons and worked with Wilhelm to pilot test the project. This year, Wilhelm's students used acrylic paint to add the Dia de los Muertos style to their creations.
Students in Darlene Wilhelm's art class at Walters Jr. High in Fremont brought home a blue ribbon with "Best of Class" designation from the 2013 Alameda County Fair for their CD Mandela project.
Using repurposed and discarded compact discs, students painted 20 CDs black then individually etched out geometric designs revealing the CDs refracted rainbow patterns. The group of students then hot-glued the individual CDs together into a round geometric pattern for the final exhibit.
7th and 8th grade students in Darlene Wilhelm's art classes at Walters Jr. High in Fremont are creating an underwater wonderland- out of trash. Clown fish and anemones are made from egg cartons, coffee cup cozys, cardboard tubes and left over yarn. Coral reef habitats spring up from bagel boxes, tissue paper and paint. Urchins sprout from rolled magazine pages and fish swim across the classroom on embossed tin catering trays and repurposed juice pouches.
The works are part of a series that Wilhelm's classes will make over the course of the year for a number of public exhibits highlighting human impact on the oceans and the importance of oceans in human health.
Soon, students will start making food displays from discarded plastic. They have already created a small sushi plate using Styrofoam food trays to highlight the fact that when we eat fish that eat plastic, we are eating plastic chemicals too. Plans also include the transformation of plastic catering containers into transparent turtles filled with plastic bags that mimic jellyfish.
"We have a problem in this society with single use disposable items," says Wilhelm. "Even things that are recyclable contribute to litter that gets into the environment."
"In this class, we are trying to up-cycle as much trash as possible," explains Wilhelm. "We produce so much waste in this society that can be reused, recycled and repurposed- it doesn't make any sense to buy new material for these projects when so much is available for free."
Wilhelm's theme of up-cycling highlights the idea of adding value to single-use disposable materials- while staying mindful of the ultimate "end of life" for the object. "We use lots of metal and paper that could have been recycled for our projects, so it is important that we preserve the recyclability of the material after the project is over by using water soluble paints and removable tape whenever possible," she explains.
"I hope this exhibit inspires people to be more thoughtful and creative in reducing the impacts of waste."
Take a look through the gallery below for more project examples and ideas from Wilhelm's class, including carved styrofoam trays converted to print blocks and photos of the other projects described in this article.
Ms. Alves' Leadership class worked with student representatives from the student council (45 students total) to audit outdoor/cafeteria waste at Walters Junior High. Students discovered that about equal parts of their waste stream were landfill and uneaten food, about 1/5 each! The findings on food scraps and uneaten food sparked interest in a possible composting system for their new school garden. Students could also create a reuse box in the cafeteria to facilitate the exchange of unwanted, untampered food items. SLWRP teachers have distributed the waste audit data to all teachers on campus to raise awareness, and will have students analyze data from previous years to track broad waste trends.