Grade: all
Subject: Art

#4300. String a Christmas Tree Garland

Art, level: all
Posted Wed Dec 10 05:25:06 PST 2008 by Marilyn J. Brackney (Marilyn J. Brackney).
The Imagination Factory
The Imagination Factory, Columbus, Indiana, USA
Materials Required: White, foamed polystyrene trays, white yarn or string, scissors, needle
Activity Time: One to three hours
Concepts Taught: Students learn how reusing materials can help save energy, natural resources, and landfill space.

In this activity, we'll learn how to reuse polystyrene to make a Christmas tree garland. A type of plastic, polystyrene is a polymer that's manufactured from petroleum. If heated, the material will melt, allowing it to be molded or extruded. When it cools, it becomes a solid again.

Foamed polystyrene is common in everyday life. Some products made of it include "peanut" packing materials, egg cartons, drinking cups, bowls, plates, take-out cartons used by restaurants, and the food trays that you see at the grocery store.

Your solid waste management facility may collect and recycle polystyrene, but if it doesn't, the material will be buried in the landfill. You can save energy, natural resources, and precious landfill space by reusing polystyrene meat, produce, and baked goods trays to create Christmas tree garlands.

There are several advantages to reusing foamed polystyrene to make this decoration. For one, the finished product is very light in weight. Since the garlands are not made of a food product like popcorn, they won't draw insects. Also, they'll stay white, and last for a long time. Reusing polystyrene to make "green" Christmas decorations also will help save money.

Use this activity to encourage students to take personal responsibility for helping save the environment. Give them some background information about polystyrene, and tie it into science. To correlate the activity with science and social studies, discuss landfills and how they're made. For more information, see "What's a Landfill?" at the link provided.

We'll string small pieces of white, polystyrene meat, produce, and baked goods trays to make garlands. When finished, they'll look similar to the ones people create by stringing popcorn.

You Will Need:

White, foamed polystyrene trays
White yarn or string

How to:

To kill bacteria, wash trays in hot, soapy water and dry. To start, break the polystyrene into pieces that measure one inch or so. Thread a needle with yarn or string that's nine to twelve feet long. Tie a knot in the end, and thread it through the first piece of polystyrene, running the yarn or string to the knot. Wrap it around this piece several times, and run it through again to make the end secure.

Begin making the garland, taking care to thread the scraps through their centers. Continue until the line is full, and then take the needle in and around the last piece several times and through the threads to fasten the garland. String the garland on your tree, and have a Green Christmas!

Tips and Tricks:

In order to cover your tree, it may be necessary to make several garlands.

Substitute white packing peanuts or another foamed product for the polystyrene trays.

2008 Marilyn J. Brackney