Turning recycled material into something more at Grand Canyon School

The Earth Day sculpture created by the Grand Canyon School art class. Photo/Mary Anne Cataldi

The Earth Day sculpture created by the Grand Canyon School art class. Photo/Mary Anne Cataldi

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Art students at Grand Canyon School (GCS) were reminded of the importance of good stewardship and recycling after building a larger than life size sculpture made entirely of recycled materials.

The project was a collaborative effort with Grand Canyon's Green Team consisting primarily of NPS, Grand Canyon Association and concessionaires within the park and the art class at Grand Canyon School and was incorporated into the park's Earth Day event that took place at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center April 22.

"The design they chose just kind of sends a couple different messages," said Green Team Coordinator Pamela Edwards. "One message being this larger than life size creature that is just holding the Earth and reminding us to be good stewards to the Earth."

Edwards said the sculpture was a unique contribution to Earth Day celebrations.

"We wanted to do something a little bit more with our park Earth Day and it's the centennial," she said.

Art students in grades seven through 12th coordinated with the park on the project.

Students sent out a call for recycled material to the community and ended up with more material than expected.

"We had a Mount Everest of recycled materials to choose from," said Mary Anne Cataldi, art teacher at GCS.

Students completed the sculpture in three and a half weeks, just in time for Earth Day celebrations.

"It was a creative challenge in and of itself and it was a creative challenge getting it into the daily art class," Cataldi said.

The sculpture is made of wood, cardboard boxes, labels from various food cartons, bottle caps, dishwasher liquid caps, buttons, paper towels, yarn, and recycled maps from National Geographic magazines.

"The idea was to get people to think about the material that we use everyday," Edwards said. "Asking, 'what can we do to reduce the amount of waste we create and can we reduce and reuse and recycle, in that order.'"

Cataldi agreed, saying students are very aware of the benefits of recycling and most try to practice it in their daily lives. As a first year teacher at GCS, Cataldi said GCS students compared to those she taught in Chicago are much more environmentally conscious.

"They were not into the Earth Day mentality like the kids here and I do think (GCS students) live it on a daily basis," she said. "I have seen a visible difference from school to school."

Edwards said raising awareness of impacts to Earth and getting people thinking about what they can do in their daily lives are some of the goals of Earth Day.

"It seems like national parks are a good place to do that," she said. "And we have a school here so it's an opportunity to build those relationships amongst the entities."

The sculpture is currently on display at Park Headquarters.

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