A Case for Hoarding in the Art Room

I admit it. I’m a hoarder. I’m probably one tragic life event away from starring in one of those hoarder reality shows. Sadly, my piles aren’t confined to my basement or my garage… I also hoard at school. I blame it on the fact that I’m one of those creative types. As an art teacher, I always think I’ll find a creative use for someone else’s castoffs. To exacerbate the problem… I hoard unusual art materials.

Over the past few years, I’ve shifted to be more focused on STEAM Education and Design Thinking. I shifted to this new curriculum to show the denizens of STEM that including the “Arts” makes 21st Century learning more applicable and relevant. I’m less interested in creating artists and more interested in creativity for all. I think of students as future designers, fellow creative types, and entrepreneurs. With this shift, I started  hoarding and collecting different stuff.
 

I’m here today to tell you that you too can survive being a hoarder.

 
As I shifted away from traditional art exercises in the visual elements and principals to instead create props, prototypes, games, costumes, and more, my materials look way different.
 
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Some of my go-to supplies include zip ties, duct tape, packing tape, plastic bottles, wood glue, glue sticks, styrofoam, PVC pipes, wood, plastic wrap, rope, and scavenged electrical equipment. In fact, one of my favorite things in the art room is a big bin of junk electrical pieces.
 
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We occasionally even rewire some of that stuff!
 

So, where can you get your hands on all this great junk?

 
I have a policy with my students’ parents that any unusual material or electrical junk bound for the landfill should come through my art room first. I’ve gotten so much great stuff this way: heavy duty architectural cardboard tubes, an old sewing machine, insulation foam, a plastic drop cloth, the list goes on.  I also rely on my fellow teachers. I’m not above sending out emails titled “another weird art material request” and yes, I am serious when I ask for NERF guns, baby dolls, broken trophies, and old records. Why would I not be serious? I also have a keen eye for junk the building generates that might be bound for the garbage or recycling. I’ve stocked an entire Prius full of uniform cardboard boxes.
 
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Hello, Día de Los Muertos Ofrendas inspired project! Maybe a take off of Louise Nevelson? I scored a mountain of styrofoam when the P.E. department upgraded and got a bunch of exercise bikes. On top of all that, I’m not above dumpster diving when I need a serious infusion of cardboard.
 
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I’m quite passionate (Help! I have a problem!) about upcycling materials. But I’m not passionate, nor skilled at storage. Housing all this stuff is a bit of a nightmare. I have a very tiny classroom but when I acquired it three years ago I told myself I wasn’t going to let the size and layout of the room hinder my curriculum. I just find a way to make it work. I use a fleet of carts and attempt as much flexibility in my room as possible.
 
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I have a modest storage room that I share with athletic gear where I can (try to) tuck away unnecessary materials until we might need them again. Outside of that, we store whatever we can wherever we can. I have ideas of where materials should go and how they should be stored. Sometimes my students have different ideas.
 
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Just sharing this confession has made me feel a lot better.  I can proudly say I’ve been a STEAM hoarder for two years and I’m not about to stop. Go forth and hoard!
 
 

What kinds of things do you hoard in the art room?

How do you manage the storage of unusual supplies?

 
 
 

Andrew McCormick

Contributor

This article was written by former AOE writer Andrew McCormick, a STEAM, PBL, and tech integration specialist.

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