Students make new paper from newspaper for Earth Day

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Jewett City - posted Tue., Apr. 12, 2011
From left, Juliana, Miranda, Disha, Nessa and Sydney tear construction paper scraps into bits to prepare it for recycling. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
From left, Juliana, Miranda, Disha, Nessa and Sydney tear construction paper scraps into bits to prepare it for recycling. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

A messy, sloppy art project that also helps save the earth – what better way to mark Earth Day?

Sixth-graders in Erin Wraichette’s art classes at Griswold Middle School used scraps of newspaper, copy paper and leftover construction paper to make recycled paper seed planters on April 12. The project was just one of a week’s worth of activities at GMS organized by staff to mark Earth Day for students and teachers, starting April 11.

Rummaging through bins of leftover scraps from other art projects, groups of four students selected piles of scraps that they then tore into smaller bits. Wraichette urged the students to collect coordinated colors for their groups, using the color theory they’d already learned in class. “Mixing the wrong colors will give you mud – that works with paper too,” she explained.

The postage stamp-sized bits were then loaded into an ordinary kitchen blender, along with enough water to cover the pile. Once whizzed for a few seconds, the paper and water turned into a lumpy, fluid paper pulp. The contents of half a flower seed packet were sprinkled into the pulp.

The pulp was then poured into a stretched wire-mesh screen inside a wooden frame. The next step, explained Wraichette, was to press as much water from the pulp as possible, using first hand pressure and then a dry sponge. Some students chose to make a single sheet of paper to be divided evenly among those in the group afterwards. Other groups opted to make smaller “blobs” of paper, one per student.

The final step was drying. The frames full of pressed pulp were flipped over and the paper sheets plopped onto a section of newspaper, to be carried over and laid along the hallway wall for drying. Wraichette told the students that the process could take days, particularly with the wet weather predicted for the remainder of the week. “It’s going to be a soggy mess probably till Thursday,” she explained.

Why the seeds? The paper sheets are intended to be planted, said Wraichette. “It’s easier than just sprinkling seeds or planting seeds,” she said. “The whole thing can go right in the ground, and flowers will grow. All of it will biodegrade once you put it in the earth.”

Kicking off the week’s Earth Day activities was a presentation by Willimantic Waste Paper Company, the local garbage and recycling contractor, augmented by the distribution of “green” reusable shopping bags and “Every Day is Earth Day” band bracelets. The bracelets and shopping bags were in evidence throughout the school, hauled by students bringing books from locker to classroom.

Other planned activities included an outdoor scavenger hunt and a recycled bottle-cap mosaic mural. Wraichette said that students accumulated plastic bottle caps in bins of matching colors and glued them to corresponding sections of four large mural panels. The mural is now on display in the school cafeteria.


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