Trash to TreasureBox! Creating Containers of Treasured Items out of recycled plastic bags

By christina whitt, January 21, 2009

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Product Design

Subject Area

  • Arts

Lesson Time

6-7 50 minute class periods


In this lesson, students will create a container(basket, bag, or case) that holds the important objects(treasures) they use on a daily basis. The material used to create their container. This container must be constructed primarily with recycled plastic shopping and grocery bags found in their homes and communities. Our world is increasingly becoming filled with plastic bags filling landfills and polluting our environment. In creating this work, we will follow this basic premise:Reduce your footprint, Reuse everything you can, and Recycle .To reduce their footprint, students will use recycled materials throughout this project. By using plastic bags as the primary source of materials, students will be able to re-purpose the material and make something permanent that contains their treasures. In an effort to utilize these materials in a constructive manner and not create even more waste, students will use discarded grocery bags and shopping bags found in their homes and communities.  The materials may be woven or fused to create more durable material. The container should be constructed to hold a specific object the student uses on a daily basis and treasures. This may be a container for a cell phone, ipod, electronic game, jewelry,make up, books, or backpack.  

National Standards

Visual Arts Standards: Content Standard 1 Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes Content Standard 2 Using knowledge of structures and functions Content Standard 3 Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas Content Standard 5 Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others Content Standard 6 Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines

Common Core Standards

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.


Students will: 1. Create a container made of recycled plastic bags. 2. Create a container that is functional (ipod case, tote bag,jewelry box,backpack,phone case,etc). 3. Utilize recycled plastic materials in the object's creation. 4. Utilize basic design principles in the construction (color, form, shape,etc.) 5. Consider the impact of recycling in their community and world.  



Plastic grocery and shopping bags, glue, brush, iron, ironing board, wax paper, scissors, rulers, thread, needles, yarn, ribbons, hole puncher, Velcro, paint, cardboard  


Wearable art Brainstorm Green Design  


Introduction The lesson will begin with a power point presentation (please see attached) describing the objectives of the lesson. Students will also be given a written overview describing the expectations of the assignment. Some key points that will be addressed regarding consumption of plastic bags: •    What is the impact of the use of plastic bags in their community? •    How can the use of plastic be reduced or reused? How can it be re-purposed? •    How can we make a container to of these products that is permanent? Some key points regarding the container: •    What type of container would you like to create? •     What treasure would you like to protect or contain? The power point will show examples that of different objects made from fused plastic bags and weaving. Demonstration After the presentation, I will demonstrate and share physical examples of objects made from reused plastic bags. I will demonstrate how to fuse plastic, following the basic techniques illustrated at the following to websites: Fusing plastic bags is a fairly simple process. Take grocery or plastic shopping bags, and cut the bags into squares or rectangles. Layer the pieces together (at least 6-8) and sandwich the sheets between wax paper. Heat your iron, placing it on rayon setting. Gently apply the heat to the surface to fuse the plastic. Apply heat for about a minute or two until the plastic fuses into a durable piece of fabric. Continue this process to accumulate enough material for your object. Once you have your sheets, you can treat your plastic like fabric. You may sew your fabric with a needle and thread or sewing machine. You may also cut strips and weave your sheets together. You may also glue the seams of the fabric together, or use a hole puncher to create holes to lace your seams together. Alternatively, students may chose not to fuse plastic, but instead make long strips of plastic and weave the strips together. An example of how to create a simple loom out of cardboard and weave from plastic is located at this website: In class, I will demonstrate how to create a basic loom and weave plastic to make it durable. After student have some options regarding techniques to utilize, they will be asked to brainstorm different ideas regarding this project. Students will sketch thumbnails. The thumbnail drawings should show the objects from different angles and should also consider the materials available. The drawings should also incorporate the idea of containing a treasure they use. Students may also consider decoration the surface of their object or creating decorative elements made of plastic on their object. The remainder of the sessions will be used for construction. During this time, I will help individual students with construction and manipulation of materials.


As we approach the deadline of the project, we will have a formal group critique/review of the objects. Students will discuss the following questions regarding each of the objects, such as: •    Does the object fulfill the objectives of the assignment? •    Is the object functional? •    Did the student create a container? What does it represent? •    Is the object made primarily of recycled materials? Does it follow the idea reduce, reuse, recycle? •    What are the aesthetic merits of the object? After the group critique, students will be asked to complete an assessment sheet evaluating their project based on the criteria described a rubric you create.  

Enrichment Extension Activities

Students could organize a recycling drive and collect plastic bags and repurpose them. They could sell the repurposed items and donate the funds.Students could also use the materials to create something wearable.
  1. What a great idea! I guess you will need multiple irons to handle a larger class. I think the weaving technique is also very interesting. I think I will use this in my tech I class as a enrichment for prop design. It could also lead to using plastics for mask making because with the mask plastics you have to use steamer irons and shape the plastic.
    Cheryl Hanson, San Antonio

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.