CMA Stories

Unusual Upcycled Planters with Restart

In October we examined Environmentalism and made Unusual Upcycled Planters, an easy way to reuse every day items you’d normally throw out— a water bottle, a tin can, old toys. We saw children from all over the world learn how easy it is to make the world a little greener. Check out their creations and share your own with #CMACIVICKIDS

Last week, CMA Teaching Artist Ian Tousius brought the Unusual Upcycled Planters project to Restart, our arts education program for children living in transitional housing. Find Ian’s reflection below.

Today at Restart we made Unusual Upcycled Planters. This project was a hit as October’s CIVICKIDS How-To, so I was excited to see how it would work in a smaller group with a shorter timeframe. We started the lesson with a round of Drawing Games as a quick icebreaker. Then, we sketched ideas of what our Upcycled Planters would look like, using our drawings as a blueprint for our final creations. Finally, we made our planters.

There was some confusion surrounding using the cardboard and plastic in the beginning, but after watching me work on an example with them, everyone was excited and got to work. Most students had never used upcycled materials to build from, but it didn’t take long for them to get familiar with how the plastic and cardboard could move and bend. By the end, everyone was excited to plant their seeds and start cultivating new life!


Quotable moments:
One child to another concerning their warm-up Drawing Game, “Please, don’t mess it up!” Later, “Oh never mind, you made it better!”
On why growing plants is important for our society:
“You can grow avocados and then everyone who is hungry can eat those.”
“Plants make oxygen by taking in a bunch of bad stuff and making…well, oxygen!”
On their artistic process:
“I make the sketchy lines because real artists sketch.”

Restart provides a structured creative outlet for children experiencing homelessness who have few after-school and educationally rich resources available to them. The program also provide caregivers with respite to attend to support services, job search and housing needs. Participating children enjoy a space that is nonjudgmental, stable and flexible for creative problem-solving. Students take ownership of their expressive process as they navigate the social-emotional challenges of being in transition. As one child stated, “Shelters are for people who need to start over and there is nothing wrong with starting over.”  Learn more here.  


  •   This month’s CIVICKIDS theme is Leadership and the digital challenge is Postcard Party! What makes a great leader? The first step is listening. There are so many different people who are listening to what’s… Read more

  • Have you seen CMA's new exhibition, A Way With Words: The Power and Art of the Book? On view through April 29, the show explores the transformation of everyday books into expressions of identity, community, environmentalism, memory, and… Read more

  • You might recognize Children’s Librarian Kristy Raffensberger from Story Time during our monthly cultural festival series. Did you know she also creates a Reading List to pair with CMA's programming themes each month? Visit Kristy a few blocks… Read more

Sign up to get updates and special invitations