How to: recycled planters

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Step 1: Discuss the options before creating with your kids -- a cat planter? A planter shaped and painted like an alligator? Once you have all decided what your planter will become, you can plan in what ways you'll have to cut the bottle, and they can plan on how to paint it!

STEP 2: Clean and cut the plastic bottle. It's usually best to cut right below where the bottle label would have been. We advise adult supervision in the cutting process. Even with kid's safe scissors, the edges of the plastic can be sharp, and cutting with dull scissors can be difficult.

Step 3: Paint! Acrylic, washable paint is best for the kiddos. Encourage them to make something come to life on their planter -- whether it be an animal or a vision from their dreams.

Step 4: Before planting or continuing to decorate the planter, it is important to let the existing paint dry. In Yaxhachen, we used the hot Yucatán sun, but I'm positive that a blow dryer would come in handy as well.

Step 5: The kids really enjoyed adding extras like glitter and gluing on puff balls after their paint had dried. Perhaps your group will want to add googly eyes for their alligator or cat planter. We used super glue for the extras, and again this would be a good time to use adult supervision. Another option would be to use hot glue.

Step 6: After your planters are painted and dried, it's time to add the potting soil!

Step 7: In Yaxhachen, we planted seeds of chiles and other commonly used spices in Yucateco cooking. While planting whatever you decide, make sure to give them a quick little lesson on taking care of plants. Read them the care instructions on the back -- when to water, how much sun is needed, etc.

Step 8: Enjoy watching your plants grow in a crafty planter!

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How to: peace flags

DSC_0396 (1) Making peace flags was one of our most successful crafts in Yaxhachen this summer. Granted, the little ones can be a little difficult to organize, but after the first day, the routine was a breeze. If you’re not familiar with the peace flag, they come from an ancient tradition of Tibet. Traditionally, “prayer flags” hang throughout the Himalayas and are filled with symbolism. The different colors represent the five elements: Blue, sky; white, air; red, fire; green, water; and yellow, earth. The flags are loaded with text and image, which seek to bring around good fortune.

In our project, the peace flag maintains its ability to be symbolic, but each one might represent something different.

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STEP 1: Encourage your students to discuss what they want their flags to represent, whether it be hopes and dreams for the future, or a celebration of friendship. Whatever they come up with will be great. :)

STEP 2: Have your students cut out their flags. Use a flat edge to draw the triangles on the paper first.

STEP 3: Create an image (and text) for your flag. Remember the point goes down! Instructors or supervisors MUST make a flag too.

STEP 4: ADD MORE! Due to growing up in fast-paced environments, kids sometimes have trouble sitting with a craft and adding detail. Or, they want “otra oja”--a new paper. Encourage your students to go back and add color or figures. Tell them to fill up the triangle. Reward them with positive affirmation. Notice what they changed when they return to show you their revisions!

STEP 5: Practice the order of you flag. After everyone completes their individual flag, practice what they will look like when they are all put together. Think about the order like a puzzle. How do they look best? Why?

STEP 6: Punch two holes into the top of each flag. I like to appoint a “Captain” for overseeing this step.

STEP 7: String them up! Keep the order in mind, and have everyone help thread the flags. The string can get long, and it takes a lot of little hands to hold it up and keep it organized!

STEP 8: HANG YOUR PEACE FLAGS. In order to maximize your impact, hang them in a public space. Or use them as decoration for an event.

STEP 9: Talk about it. How does the result embody the ideas that the artists wanted to convey in the beginning? Are there additional ideas that they hadn’t thought of?

SIGN UP AND WE WILL SEND YOU THE PEACE FLAG PACKET. Classroom teachers and groups of 15 or more can qualify to receive a packet in the mail with materials, instructions, and a treat for your class. The trick is: You make two! Keep one for your school, classroom, or public space, and send one back to us (plus a photo, obviously). Email us at kooxboon@gmail.com!