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At Peabody Museum, youngsters recycle trash into artwork

By Alexander C. Kaufman
Globe Correspondent / April 22, 2012
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Plastic bottles, cardboard popcorn boxes, and ripped-up rubber mesh littered the floor Saturday afternoon in the back of a Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology classroom.

But for the roughly 50 children who came to sift through the tossed-out recyclables, it was a treasure heap of art supplies.

For the second year in a row, the educational programmers at the Harvard University museum celebrated Earth Day by giving middle-schoolers a chance to reuse recyclable goods to craft creations from inner-tube sandals to Drano bottle cars with cans for wheels.

“The theme of today’s room was in part to bring awareness not just to recycling but to highlight the cultural significance of making things,’’ said Andrew Majewski, the museum’s education specialist. “People choose to make things out of what other people throw away.’’

The museum hosted the event two days in a row, attracting at least 200 parents and children, he said.

Colleagues from the museum and other departments at Harvard donated their recyclable trash - cardboard boxes from Equal sweetener or plastic Poland Spring jugs - and piled it in the back of the classroom, in front of a crayon-etched mural of a landfill.

The children rummaged through the grab-bag of trash, collecting parts for their crafts. Then, seated at three long picnic tables covered with crayons, colored pencils, glue, and scissors, they assembled eco-friendly sculptures.

“One of our goals for the education department at the Peabody Museum is to plan for family-friendly activities,’’ said Majewski, who developed the program with his colleagues. “And we tie our events into what is relevant on the calendar.’’

Alexander C. Kaufman can be reached at akaufman@globe .com. Follow him on Twitter @AlexCKaufman.

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