An Introduction to Fun Upcycling Projects For Middle Schoolers

In the modern world, sustainable living and recycling are all the rage. Those are worthy ideals to live by considering the level of pollution and damage regularly done to the planet and the life it contains.

However, a new trend is arising; upcycling.

Upcycling is related to recycling, but they have distinct differences. For starters, recycling involves accumulating and breaking down waste materials to produce new items, while upcycling waste is reusing it creatively (but in its original form).

Another difference is in the ease of adoption. Recycling is easy to take up, considering that the onus of the actual task lies with institutions. All an individual needs to do is gather up recyclable material.

On the other hand, upcycling involves a little bit of innovative repurposing. Introducing children to details and ideas of upcycled crafts when they are still young enough to imbibe them is the way to go.

This post will give you some upcycling projects for middle schoolers so that you can continue their excellent education in an eco-friendly way!

Why Upcycle Instead of Recycle


Many people play up recycling to be the savior of landfills, but the reality is not in line with the expectations.

Many intricate details are involved in determining what can be recycled, and many waste-collecting facilities provide education to help.

However, the truth remains that recycling uses resources, which continues the cycle of overuse.

The alternative (upcycling) gives new life to materials that have outlived conventional usage. In this case, you don’t need to create anything new; you explore a couple of ideas and settle on a new way for the material to serve your home.

Another problem with recycling is that the integrity and quality of the item produced are less than that of the original material.

In other words, the product of recycling is inferior to the actual waste material. Specific advantages of upcycling to take note of are:

  1. It reduced the number of materials that you toss away in the landfills
  2. It represents a way of saving costs on toys and some simple household products
  3. Upcycled crafts for kids are a fun way of helping them unlock their creative side
  4. It promotes craftsmanship
  5. It minimizes the use of natural resources

Now that we have got that hashed out let’s move on to the upcycled crafts and projects parents/guardians can introduce kids to. These are very good environmental activities for kids and will also help create a greener school.

Upcycled Crafts for Middle School kids That Can Rival a Craft Store

At this age, there are additional advantages to upcycling.

For starters, you get kids to work as a group and build their social skills. In addition, you can watch them develop their artistic side in learning these crafts.

That said, here are a few crafts to start with:

Making Paper Baskets

paper mache

As a teacher/parent, you can get children to gather together waste paper. These could come in the form of newspapers, magazines, etc.

The pieces of paper could then be folded and interwoven to create colorful baskets. These baskets could be used as trash cans to gather other paper waste.

There is also the option for the kids to make paper mache baskets out of the waste paper, then paint their baskets with crayons to make it more fun for kids.

Making Shelves And Playhouses from Cartons And Cardboard


Sure, you could repurpose cartons to serve as storage boxes, but eventually, you might run out of reasons to have storage boxes. Not to worry, though; the combination of cartons and cardboard can still come in handy.

You can start by constructing a bookshelf for your kids’ rooms. Then, of course, there would be a need for reinforcements in the form of tape and multiple cardboard. Still, it would be a worthy upcycling project to develop reading habits for a child.

Reading has to accompany a little play in children’s daily routines. You can balance the equation using spare cardboard and cartons to construct playhouses.

Furthermore, you can help them develop ideas for creating a house sign, characters, and a story to make playtime more fun.

Making Board Games From Cardboard

family playing board game

Parents don’t always have to buy board games from stores; you can create yours with your children.

Board games represent a favorite pastime for most families and upcycling your boards can make them even more fun. For example, you can consult an online tutorial to lay out a game or create a custom game that draws on memories or a familiar story.

Making such a game can be a family bonding experience, and your child can paint it as they wish.

Starting a Home Plant Collection in Tin Cans

plant in tin can

Up to this point, our crafts haven’t been biased towards any sex, and the trend continues here.

There’s no harm in keeping plants.

They help to refresh the air around the home and serve as an excellent way to develop environmental consciousness in kids. In addition, home plants could also be a precursor to a garden, and your little planters can start getting their hands dirty accordingly.

However, their time planting would require some observation because of the tendency for tin cans to have jagged/sharp edges.

Building A Toy Car Garage From Toilet Paper Rolls

toilet rolls

This would dovetail nicely with the carton playhouse, especially if your child has an extensive model toy car collection.

This particular craft usually leans toward boys, but it also is an excellent way to reuse those empty rolls. You can stack the rolls within a cardboard frame and cover them on the other side with egg cartons or other cardboard.

Making A Bird Feeder from Used Compact Disks (CDs), Tape, And Cardboard


This gadget can work well in feeding other pets as well.

Direct your child to wrap the cardboard along the edges of the disk and tape it up. Unfortunately, such disks also have a hole in the center. So, tape the bottom of the disk to keep the solid material from leaking out; voila, you have a new feeder.

Of course, this genius idea is good enough only for solid food. Still, it would at least save you from using plastic feeders or purchasing a new feeder.

There are many other upcycled crafts to consider. Some use the materials mentioned above, while others employ crayons, fabric, single-serving chopsticks, etc.

Of course, any material can be upcycled, provided it is safe for use.

Still, the best designs meet a need within your personal life, except if you’re looking to start an amateur crafts store.

Final Thoughts

This article has given you 6 excellent upcycling projects for middle schoolers! You can use these to celebrate earth day at school.

In truth, the entire process is about meeting needs with would-be waste. Unfortunately, upcycled crafts are another way to reduce said waste by channeling creativity.

Our ideas should be enough to put kids’ little hands to good use. You could also search online or watch videos to ignite your creativity if you need inspiration.

Start practicing upcycling and training your kids to be waste-conscious humans and become a more eco-friendly school.