Getting crafty indoors while thinking green!

Alyssa and birdfeeder
Happy 50th Earth Day! While staying inside makes this an unusual Earth Day celebration, you can still enjoy arts and crafts that honor — and help protect — the planet!. Many thanks to Alysa Adams, Interpretive Specialist at the Mount St. Helens Visitors Center, for contributing this week's blog. She is staying home, staying safe and looking forward to seeing you all when parks reopen!

April 22, 2020

Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!Kida and earth

Earth day is celebrated world-wide every spring on April 22. In many  communities, you’ll find outdoor opportunities folks are invited to participate in to demonstrate support for environmental protection. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. Though unprecedented times mean this year’s celebration is different, the goal remains the same.

Washington State Parks invites you to get creative and join us in some fun, youth-friendly crafts around the home. Using a variety of simple household items, you can upcycle and reuse many items. While doing so, be aware of how your actions affect Mother Nature.

Instead of tossing out your garbage, let’s inspire and support each other in the spirit of spring! The plants out your window are blossoming -- let’s see what you can create, too!

The Basics

So, what is upcycling? 

Most folks are familiar with the term recycling, where items are broken down to be reused. Those items eventually get a second life, and many packages proudly claim they are made from recycled materials

Question: Have you noticed recycling symbols like this one on the right on the packages of food you eat?Recyl

Upcycling, on the other hand, is creative reuse, when we take something that’s considered waste and repurpose it, instead. By transforming unwanted products into new creations, they too get a second life. But it’s completely our choosing what form they take! This is where your imagination takes over.

Question: What items can you upcycle around your home?

Both recycling and upcycling are helpful choices we can make. Less landfill waste has a positive impact on our environment.

Question: What other positive actions can you make to support our planet?

What will I need and how do I start?

With families spending more time at home than usual, now is a good time to open those cluttered drawers in search of unique craft supplies. Have you been asking the kids to clean their space? Maybe a new incentive will help them out: a scavenger hunt with a fun reward—craft time! Shift that familiar old saying into your very own mantra: “Your trash can become your treasure.”

Here are five craft ideas using items many of you will find at home. Instead of running out to the store, get scrappy and find what you need where you already are. With a variety of different learning styles and interests out there, you may find something that suits your fancy.

Today we will share how to make something to keep, something to share, something for playing, something for the animals and something to give back to nature! Have fun and enjoy!

Nature collage featuring your favorite state park

Crayons and materials
Into the wild project
With a few simple art supplies, some scrap items and a little imagination, you can create a beautiful collage to treasure forever! Photos by Alysa Adams.

 Category: Something to keep! 

Upcycle: Cereal boxes/cardboard packaging and old magazines/junk mail.

Glue, scissors, coloring utensils and a little bit of patience.  Goal: Make a piece of art centered around your favorite state park! Pull out those family photos from summers past and envision your most cherished memory. Craft a scene of that park or the park you hope to visit later this year! Display your finished product to promote positivity.

Learning style: This is best for visual learners who are detail oriented. This craft can become time-consuming for the perfectionists out there, so find a comfortable spot. Be prepared — this can get messy.

Pop-up spring celebration card

Celebration 1
Celebration 2
Celebration 3
Celebration 4

Pop goes the art! Share Earth Day with your friends the social distancing way by making a pop-up card to send!  Photos by Alysa Adams.

✔ Category: Something to share!

Upcycle: Cereal boxes/cardboard packaging and scrap-paper.

Supplies: Glue, scissors, writing utensil, coloring utensils or paints.  

Goal: Create a beautiful card to give to a friend or family member to celebrate the season! Cover the card with images that remind you of your favorite spring features, and fill the inside with a poem describing how nature makes you feel! Share it with someone in your home or snap a photo and text your buddies.

Learning style: This craft is ideal for reading and writing learners. Remember, a poem can mean something different to everyone — and it doesn’t even need to rhyme.

Rain stick

Rain Stick 1
Rain Stick 2

Now you are on a roll! Craft a rain stick by day, then connect with friends on social media and have a sing along by night! Photos by Alysa Adams.

✔ Category: Something for playing!

Upcycle: Toilet paper or paper-towel rolls

Supplies: Beans, popcorn kernels or old buttons (for the sound-effect), tape/string/rubber bands and a bit of plastic wrap (for securing the ends), aluminum foil (barrier for the rainfall sound inside) and coloring utensils.

Explore your musical side through the creation of a nature-inspired instrument. Everyone engages with the outdoors in a different way, and some folks connect deeply with sound! With spring showers needed for plant growth, now is the time to dance, sing and welcome the rain! Turn on those nature tunes and play along or make some of your own.

Learning style: This project is great for auditory learners, and quickly shifts to suite kinesthetic learners once the craft is done and it’s time to wiggle.


Bird feeder 1
Alyssa and birdfeeder

Have a few old containers in the recycling bin? Grab a few and make a nifty bird feeder for cheep -- um, cheap. Photos by Alysa Adams.

Category: Something for the birds!

Upcycle: Plastic bottles, old take-out utensils and plastic lids.

Supplies: Scissors, string, markers, beads (optional for decorating) birdseed (wild seed is preferred for the native birds).

Goal: To share the joy of spring with our feathered friends. Whether you live in an apartment, townhome, trailer or out on a farm, you’ll find birds everywhere! Serving your backyard birds can be a rewarding hobby as you become familiar with their calls and comforted by their presence. You can even keep a list of the birds that visit your new feeder.

Learning style: This craft involves building and tinkering, best for those kinesthetic types out there. Once installed, the feeder is fantastic for audio and visual learners as they birdwatch and listen to birdsong.

Seed bombs

Seed Bomb 1
Seed Bomb 2

Bombs away! As the paper rapidly decomposes, these little seed bombs may sprout posies! Seed bombs are a great hands-on activity to enjoy at home and later plant and watch grow in your own back yard! Photos by Alysa Adams.

✔ Category: Something for nature!

Upcycle: Scrap paper or newspaper (cardstock is too tough and will not break down easily).

Supplies: Wildflower seeds, water, bowls, your hands as tools and 30 minutes to let the paper soak.

Goal: Prepare for the planting season from indoors. Since the outdoors aren’t accessible for all right now, growing a small window garden or planning your outdoor garden for those who have a yard is a good way to liven up the home and get excited for what summer has to offer. Either way, these seed bombs (compostable seed bundles) will come in handy. So roll up your sleeves and  spread some flowers!

Learning Style: In this craft you use your hand as a “blender” to pulverize paper into pulp — a great project for tactile and kinesthetic  learners. Once your seed bomb is planted, visual learners can enjoy watching the plants sprout.

Learn More

Here at Washington State Parks, every day is Earth Day — and we thank you for your continued support! If you complete the crafts above and want some further ideas, check out the links below. There is a huge variety of awesome nature inspirations on the internet. It’s as simple as a quick search!

Links to support your Adventure Awaits crafts:

Rain stick

Fun song to listen to: Johnny Bregar’s “Polly’s Rain Dance.”

This song was featured during the Washington State Parks Foundation’s Great Camp-in.  

Bird feeder

Seed bombs

More Earth Day activities:

Links for environmental education and green living:

We’re excited to virtually celebrate the 50th Earth Day with all of you, and glad you visited the Adventure Awaits to find encouragement. We hope you all will find inspiration, fun and food for thought in these activities!

What will you and your family do? How will you remotely share your Earth Day enthusiasm? 
Tell us about it and share your photos –and art -- on our Share Your Story portal!