Upcycle It - Digital Promise

Upcycle It

Objective: Students will use everyday throwaway items to create something useful and valuable.

Tools/Materials Required: As needed

Depth of Knowledge: Strategic Thinking

Teacher’s notes are in purple. For the student’s version, see Upcycle It Student Guide.

Prepare: Learn about the key ideas in this project

If you’ve ever heard the saying, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure,” you understand that people can make good use of others’ unwanted belongings. But instead of simply reusing those items, what if we could make better use of materials and objects that are underused or discarded?

This project is all about using everyday objects and materials to design something that is more useful or valuable than the original. This process is referred to as upcycling. Read more about upcycling here.

Before you get started, it may be helpful to make a list of objects and materials in your home or school that are underused (items such as an empty mason jar or an empty crate) or items that will be thrown away after use (such as plastic bottles or soiled clothing). What could you create from these items that you or others will find useful and valuable?

There should be no need to purchase materials for this project. Make sure students are thinking of materials and objects that are already available to them.

Practice: Try as many activities as you would like to build your skills

Make a Museum of the Mundane to consider the parts, purposes, and complexities of the objects you might use in your project.

If you are designing for another person, practice uncovering your user’s needs by doing the Backpack Project with a peer.

Create a digital prototype of your idea. If you want to create your prototype in TinkerCad, learn the basics by doing the Cookie Cutter project. You may also want to create a 3D scan of your objects so that you can digitally edit and annotate them. Practice 3D scanning objects with the Paper Boat project.

Produce: Dig into the project and make it your own!

How might we create something useful and valuable from throwaway objects and materials?

Remember that the goal of this project is to create something useful and valuable from objects and materials that are already available to you. You should not need to purchase new objects or materials to include in your design.

If you’d like to showcase your completed design, consider taking before and after photos of your project. How did you get started on your project? What original materials were used and how were they transformed for the final design? Create a photo slideshow to show the transformation from start to finish.

Produced by Digital Promise Global, with thanks to the Open Educational Resources listed throughout this guide. Distributed to Learning Studios schools as part of HP, Inc. and Microsoft’s Reinvent the Classroom.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You may share this project or modified versions of it under this same license.

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