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Lesson: Creating With Leftovers

Inspired by the video of artist Jenny Wu, this lesson explores different materials used in a found-object sculpture. Students experiment with found materials and assemble a sculpture that transforms materials in the process.

Learning Objectives

  • Examine and discuss sculptures.
  •  Create a balanced sculpture using found objects.
  • Analyze their work and sculptures by other students through group and individual discussions.
  • Understand the limitations and possibilities of various materials and how they interact in a three-dimensional space.


  • Various found items (jewelry, electronics, decorations, fabric, etc.)
  • Recyclable goods (cardboard, straws, popsicle sticks, bottle caps, etc.)
  • Wire
  • String
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Paper
  • Paint

Process and Experimentation
These warm-up activities generate ideas and encourage students to consider how materials can come together.

Arrange the gathered materials in an accessible central location. Students can keep objects and materials they brought in at their desks.

Begin with these warm-up exercises that are meant to be fast, fun, and silly. Have students gather five to ten objects. They will create a sculpture with these objects without using glue or tape (or just a small amount of tape). In round one, they have only one minute to build a sculpture.

After the one-minute timer ends, call on a few students to share what they created. Next, have students dismantle their sculptures and then repeat the process. They should create a different sculpture each time.

In round two, set the timer for five minutes. In round three, set it for ten minutes. Adjust the lengths of time to suit your class's needs.

One minute

Five minute

Ten minutes

Discuss these questions as a class or in small groups.

  • What type of sculpture did you make?
  • How did you feel about building quickly?
  • How did it feel to take apart your sculpture?
  • How can you push the boundaries of what is a sculpture?

Connect and Extend
Continue this activity by having students focus on creating a sculpture by gathering materials and sketching out ideas and possible combinations. Laying out, sorting, and sketching the materials helps to organize how one item can support another. When students build their sculptures, they can use glue and tape to bind materials since they will not dismantle them.

Things for students to keep in mind as they build.

  • Will your sculpture have human or animal traits?
  • Why did you choose your materials?
  • How are you transforming materials? How do the different materials work together?
  • What mood does your sculpture create?

Instead of having students create individual sculptures, you may extend this lesson by building a group sculpture using only recyclable materials.

Core Arts Standards

VA:Cr2.1.7a Demonstrate persistence in developing skills with various materials, methods, and approaches in creating works of art or design.

VA:Cr2.3.7a Apply visual organizational strategies to design and produce a work of art, design, or media that clearly communicates information or ideas.

VA:Re8.1.7a Interpret art by analyzing artmaking approaches, the characteristics of form and structure, relevant contextual information, subject matter, and use of media to identify ideas and mood conveyed.