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Art on a Shoestring:
Create Groundbreaking Works
Without Breaking the Bank

As school budgets shrink, especially in the area of arts education, are you finding it difficult to fund even the simplest art projects for your classroom? Art doesn't have to cost big bucks! Some of the neatest works of art are made with recycled or inexpensive materials. You don't have to be a scrooge to appreciate a good bargain -- these activities straight from the Internet are fun and cheap!

Andrea Mulder-Slater, an artist and teacher of art, developed the KinderArt Web site to fill a void. "My initial interest in the Internet was strictly as a research tool for my writing," she told Education World. "One day I decided to see if there were any resources for lesson plans -- specifically, art lesson plans -- and I found that there were very few. That was in the fall of 1996."

So Mulder-Slater created what was at that time a modest resource for art teachers, with about 20 lessons. The name KinderArt came a few months later. Now the site features more than 300 lessons and is still growing!


It didn't take long for educators to discover KinderArt.

"As more and more people started coming to KinderArt, it became clear that there were many teachers and parents who, like me, were on the lookout for new ideas that didn't cost a fortune to try with a classroom of 30 students," Mulder-Slater said. "I continued to build the site, adding quick lessons as well as more in-depth drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture studies. My main concern was to offer ideas that make use of readily available materials that most parents and teachers have at home or in their school supply cupboards," explained Mulder-Slater.

"In short, I developed the site because I think art should be an important part of any home or school curriculum, and if there are easy-to-follow lessons with readily available materials, it makes the lives of teachers and parents much easier," said Mulder-Slater.

Teachers couldn't agree more!



Have You Seen
This Article
From the
Ed World Archive?

Refrigerator to Renoir: Great Art Lessons on the Net
You don't need to be Picasso to teach valuable artistic concepts in your classroom, but you may need a little guidance. These art lessons will fill the void, give you perspective, and move you into motion!

Be sure to check out our Arts Center for additional articles and lessons plus our Lesson Plan of the Day -- The Arts page for more fun across-the-curriculum arts lessons.

As a special offering for Education World readers, Mulder-Slater created the lesson Drywall Carving (see the result in the photo above) and added it to the activities contained on her site. In this lesson, students carve into soft pieces of drywall and learn about and experiment with relief sculpture. Drywall, water in spray bottles, Popsicle sticks, glue, and paint are the basic materials required to try this activity with your class.

In addition to that new activity, Mulder-Slater recommends several of the art projects presented by KinderArt.


  • With pie plates, poster board, scrap wood pieces, and a few basic supplies that you already have in your classroom, your students can create amazing Pie Plate Fish. The colorful creatures are museum-quality works of art, but they are simple to make. Students staple the pie plates together and attach them to a wood base. They then design a head, a tail, and fins for their fish and secure them to the plates. After that, some paint adds the finishing touches.


  • Fabric Assemblage is a simple collage made from scraps of material and yarn. The activity encourages students to visualize their finished product and lay it out before they begin to glue. They may re-create a multitude of scenes with the texture of fabric and use yarn, rope, cord, etc., to form the outlines of other objects.


  • Your students will enjoy making a cool African Drum from part of a cardboard carpeting tube and a plastic flowerpot. KinderArt walks you through the steps required to make the drum. Why not incorporate the art project into a lesson about Africa?


  • Although this project is a little more involved, the result is worth the extra time and effort! Follow the instructions for making ornate Papier Mache Masks with your students for plays or for fun. The base of the masks is a simple masquerade mask from a party supply store (about $.25 each). The activity is presented in four stages, so your students' projects can dry between steps. The last phase of the project really brings out your students' creativity because it involves painting and decorating the masks with fabric, string, beads, or anything else they can imagine.


  • If you've ever wondered what could be done with the old shoes that are piling up in your closet, KinderArt has an answer! As the title of this activity suggests, Painted Shoes instructs students in how to transform old, unwanted shoes into works of art. They mimic masters such as Van Gogh, Monet, and Picasso by re-creating their works on shoes. The finished product is an eye-catching artistic statement!



Though it is one of the best, KinderArt isn't your only resource for super, economical art activities. Try one of these cool projects from some of the best craft resources you will find. You can afford the materials, and your students won't be stingy with their creativity.

Art Projects -- You can do many art activities with the right materials. Arts and Crafts Theme Page will help you make bubble solution, kites, masks, stained glass and soap from scratch. Find uses for the projects to suit your curriculum goals.

Wind Sock -- A simple but vibrant and eye-catching craft is the Whimsical Windsock from Crayola Crafts. Your students will adore this activity, which is suitable for almost any age. With paper, streamers, and yarn, they create gorgeous windsocks to hang in your classroom. You probably have everything you need in the back of your art cabinet. My own hint: If you need to purchase streamers, get them on sale at department stores after holidays. You can find reasonably priced orange and black crepe paper after Halloween and red and green after Christmas!

Bunny -- Nothing could be cuter than this Spoon Bunny from Crafty Kids. The base of the craft is created with two inexpensive plastic spoons. A bit of ribbon and a few pom-poms, and you have a delightful bunny face for spring. Sheldon is a little chick that you can make with another set of free instructions on the site.

Rice Collage -- The Arts and Crafts page has a great collection of terrific recipes for art media. One of the neat activities is a rice collage. If you teach younger students, you will want to do the preparation on your own. Older students may help you prepare the rice by adding the alcohol and food coloring and shaking the container. To create the collages, students simply spread glue on a paper and sprinkle rice onto it. You could have them use coloring book pages or draw their own designs to embellish. The same recipe can be used to color pasta as well.

Vegetable Prints -- Many teachers have experimented with potato or apple prints, but have you tried bell peppers? Cross sections of the vegetables when dipped in paint produce a shamrock shape for St. Patrick's Day. Your students will enjoy this and other inexpensive St. Patrick's Day Activities from Mother's Home. With a little green paint and paper, your students can create a great border or background for a bulletin board, a card, or any other cool craft that could use a shamrock print!


Any final words of advice to artists and non-artists alike? Education World asked Mulder-Slater.

"I think the most important message that I can send out to teachers, parents, and students is to never stop drawing, because when we stop drawing, we stop seeing," she advised. "Drawing is the most basic form of art making and really the most basic form of communication."

"Also," Mulder-Slater adds, "don't let others make you feel unhappy or unsatisfied with your creations. If you paint a picture that you love, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of it. At the same time, if you paint a picture that you hate, don't give up. Instead, put it aside and try again another time."

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2010 Education World

Originally published 03/15/1999
Last updated 02/20/2010