Packed.  Sealed.  Shipped.

I just returned from shipping off 90 sea creatures to travel across the country from Massachusetts to Washington State.  Why?  Well…  it’s an interesting story.

Get Inspired

The motto of The Inspired Classroom will always reflect my philosophy of good professional development: first teachers must GET inspired, in order to BE inspiring to their students.  Well, last summer, at the Arts Integration & STEAM Retreat, we retreaters participated in a fantastic and inspiring workshop: Ocean Creatures in Recycled Plastic with Brynn Koulovatos.

In this workshop we each created our own 3-dimensional sea creature.  Our art work acted as a reminder of the beauty of sea creatures and inspired us to take care of these creatures. We started by learning about observational drawing, acrylic paint mixing, blending, and the painting process.  And as we stuffed our art with recycled plastic bags, it brought home the message of how many ocean creatures are suffering because of our waste.

The workshop was so inspiring that many teachers decided to take the project and implement it into their classrooms.  A couple of my colleagues and I decided to as well!

In fact, we were able to work the project into our school’s “Cultural Connections” grant (funded by our local AEFI foundation) and included our entire fourth grade class!

A great addition to the project happened when our art teacher, Karen Greenfield, another repeater retreater, found out about an organization called Students Rebuild, who posed an Ocean Challenge this year for World Oceans Day, June 8th!

Here’s how it works:

We register as a group, create sea creatures from paper and send them to Washington.  The best part is that, “For every artwork you send us, the Bezos Family Foundation will donate $2 (up to $500K) toward youth-focused ocean conservation and restoration efforts in coastal communities, helping to increase awareness, provide jobs and build community resilience.”

So our fun, inspiring and environmentally conscientious art project became a real work of community service.

BE Inspiring!

We introduced this project to the students and they were excited to get started on such a fun and meaningful work of art.


we introduced the project to the students by talking about the Students Rebuild project and watching this video:

We took time to discuss not only the “what” of our project, but the “why:” to spread the word of ocean pollution and what steps we can take to cut down on hurting our oceans.


the students and teachers went back to the classrooms to create their art:

  • Each student was given a color picture of a sea creature to draw in pencil.
  • They cut out two of the shapes and painted them symmetrically.
  • We stapled the two shapes together, leaving an opening for the stuffing.  (BONUS – We used a staple-less stapler so there would be NO unhealthy waste.)
  • The students carefully stuffed their sea creature with paper from our own recycling bins.  (We used paper instead of plastic for the student version of the art.  This was in part because the Students Rebuild project asked for paper artwork only.)

We were even covered in the local newspaper!


we displayed our sea creatures for our Celebration of Learning, encouraging others to ponder the idea of taking care of our oceans.


our 90 pieces of ocean art was shipped across the country to Washington state, making an impact on others who will see it!

A Studio Day Reflection

We wanted the students to feel this project was special, so we decided to allow them the time to work on the project from start to finish within a school day.  This way, students could participate in the entire creative process uninterrupted.  And in true Studio Day fashion, we allowed time for reflection: a key component to a Studio Day project.

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Here are some reflections from students:

“As I created my sea-creature I felt proud of it. It took a lot of work on my jellyfish. It was hard to make it. I felt happy that we are donating it to let people see that we shouldn’t be throwing our stuff in the ocean. But I’m also sad because I really like it because it’s something I worked hard on.”

“I think seeing my artwork will make a positive impression on people, especially if they hear that this project is going to a organization to help save the sea creatures in the ocean. People will say, “OMG your kids in this school are amazing. GOOD JOB.”  I will be very proud of that.  A lot of other people will too. In closing I think people should help save the earth/sea. I promise it will make a big change in the world.”

“We used the materials that we did such as paper, because you can recycle paper. We also used the staple-less staplers because if a staple fell out than it won’t end up in the ocean. If it ends up in the ocean a fish might eat it and then we would eat the fish.”

Allowing students to fully immerse themselves in their artwork is so powerful!  Students need this!  We can get so wrapped up in our curriculum, our paperwork, our day to day duties that we forget how important it is to just stop and create.

From creation to reflection, the time on this project, was time well spent as we touched upon curriculum connections, community building and creativity all in one!



Students Rebuild

Amesbury Educational Foundation, Inc.  (Thanks, AEFI for making this project possible!)

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