Author Archives: Bernadette Noll

How to green up your classroom party

Tis the season for classroom parties and the volunteer positions are filling up. It’s easy to hit the dollar store or the party aisle at your local grocery store but with just a little planning, and a bit of effort we can save a classroom’s worth of party detritus from going to the landfill. It’s not always simple to choose reusable items over disposable, but it’s simpler than an entire society trying to figure out what to do with all its garbage. I encourage you this year to take a few minutes to think green when you are planning your holiday party and choose reusable where and when you can.

  • Cover the tables with table cloths, fabric pieces or drop cloths. Simply wash the cloths after the party. Skip the disposable plastic table cloths as that is a lot of garbage for just one party. Austin Creative Reuse has vinyl banners, bolts of different fabrics and other things that can be made into table coverings.
  • Use real cutlery. Pretty much everyone has a dishwasher. It’s just as easy to gather up all the silverware and throw it in a bag to be brought home for washing as it is to throw it away. Don’t have enough? Hit the thrift store for a party pack of used silverware.
  • Use real plates! Seriously, it’s not that much harder than using disposable. Find some reusable melamine or small plastic dishes at the thrift store that can be used as regular party plates or have everyone BYOP. Choose a color theme or have the theme of randomness! Want to make it schoolwide? Create a party pack which can be checked out by teachers for classroom parties.
  • Having a big school wide party? Ask attendees to bring their own plates and cutlery. Bring it in a plastic bag so that it can be brought home dirty. To make this even more palatable, offer guests a rinsing station so they can rinse their plates before packing them up to take home.
  • Make the decorations things you can reuse. Skip the paper streamers and hang some ribbon and ornaments instead. Make the décor part of the activities and watch it grow as the party continues. Simply hang string or ribbon around the perimeter of the room and using tiny binder clips or clothespins, clip on origami, paper snowflakes made from the recycling bin, photos, ornaments or whatever other item you create. Pop into Austin Creative Reuse party section for lots of décor ideas and even some used decorations  from classroom parties past!
  • Serving food? Again, the thrift stores are loaded with the serving vessels you need. Real cake stands, trays, baskets and platters can be found for the same price or less than disposable ones. Don’t want to keep them? Simply wash and return to the thrift store when finished. Austin Creative Reuse has plenty of baskets and other large serving platters as well.
  • Serving drinks? Use a large water cooler and fill it with the beverage of your choice. Skip the juice boxes or water bottles and opt for reusable/washable cups instead. Find cups at the thrift store or even buy a sleeve of new reusable cups for the classroom at the beginning of the year. Let each kid decorate their own cup with permanent markers or paint. For schoolwide events, offer a commemorative cup to be purchased and used at each event.

Austin Creative Reuse Center is a great place to look for supplies and tools for your next classroom party. Come for traditional items such as streamers and plates or expand your decor with the many non-traditional items available. Need some ideas? Just ask the employees, volunteers or even your fellow shoppers!

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Creating Creativity in 4 Easy Steps

We want our kids to be creative and so we buy them all kinds of craft kits and maker kits. It’s true these kits are designed to help our kids create, but they are not designed to encourage our kids’ creativity. Usually the kits are designed to make one thing and one thing only, with implicit instructions on how to do so. This is fine if you want to make one thing and one thing only, but why teach our children to merely assemble a product when we can teach them to dream up something unique?

How then can we provide our kids a make/craft experience that will truly foster creativity? What if we’re not creative ourselves? How can we allow them to interpret the materials using their own ideas and ingenuity without getting in their way? It’s easy really. Way easier than trying to control it! And when we get out of their way we will be amazed at what they come up with.

To get you and your family started, here are four simple steps for fostering creativity in your house or classroom:

  1.       Have simple tools handy. If we give them the tools, they will build stuff. To get them started on many projects have a small “maker” tool box handy. This can be kept in a cigar box or other small box that is easy to grab. The easier it is to grab the tools, the more likely it is they will be used and the easier it is to clean up! Some basic ideas: glue, decent scissors, a hole punch, a large-eye plastic sewing needle, and a glue gun if you are working with older kids.
  2.       Provide the materials. Put an assortment of materials in a box and give it to a child. The container will make it feel like a kit, but the materials inside will get them pondering all the possibilities as seen through their own brilliant imaginations. It is said that childhood is the time our imaginations are the most vivid, and if we don’t use our imaginations then, we never will. We can foster imagination by staying away from instructions and instead providing open-ended materials that will allow their minds to wander. Some ideas for your creativity box: fabric sample book, wall-paper sample book, sheet protectors, colored cardstock or scrapbook paper, a ball of string or yarn, cut-up pieces of corrugated cardboard, burlap, buttons, chop sticks or kabob sticks, embroidery floss (I recommend the pearl style floss that can’t be separated and is easier for little hands to work with) and some type of simple fasteners such as brads. All of these things and more can be found at Austin Creative Reuse for less than $2.00 total! If you’d rather stay at home, search around for items you could use such as scraps of denim, magazines, the plastic coated postcard mailers, snaps cut from a discarded garment, old keys, or items pulled from the recycling bin.
  3.       Let go of the outcome. If you have an outcome in mind, feel free to offer it as a serving suggestion but then step back and let your child go wild. If you really can’t let go of the outcome, sit down and make it yourself but stay away from dictating your child’s project. By sitting down next to them and working on your own stuff, your child will be inspired by both your ideas and your own desire to create.
  4.       Have fun. If you can’t let go, walk away. If you’re not finding it fun, walk away. Creativity should be fun, not stressful so do whatever it takes to set yourselves up for success. Work outside if the mess makes you wiggy. Cover the table with a drop cloth if you can’t take your eyes off the glue dripping out of the bottle. Close the door if you feel triggered by the chaos. Whatever you do, keep it fun.


Make a field trip to the Austin Creative Reuse Center the first step in your family’s road to creativity! Come solo or bring the kids. You’ll be amazed at what you find. If you need ideas for projects or materials, just ask! Both the employees and customers at Austin Creative Reuse are happy to share ideas and inspiration. Check out the website for hours and project inspiration:

If you have questions about projects or ways to bring Austin Creative Reuse into your classroom or school, email Bernadette at If you’d like to volunteer at our center click here to find out how!

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