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April Partner & Volunteer Highlight: UpCycle Creative Reuse Center

April Partner & Volunteer Highlight: UpCycle Creative Reuse Center

In recognition of Earth Day on April 22, 2023, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) is celebrating its partnership with UpCycle Creative Reuse Center this month. UpCycle connects art and the environment through the creative reuse of materials. The nonprofit’s programs and events instill the values that are essential for a sustainable future for ACPS students. For the past five years, UpCycle has been leading out-of-school time programming at 10 ACPS schools and recreation centers. UpCycle has also hosted school groups at its Materials Center and worked with many ACPS teachers over the years.

“We love showing how materials can be saved, instead of thrown out, and used in creative ways,” Executive Director Theresa Esterlund said. “We know that creative reuse is an effective response to ever-filling landfills, overproduction and diminishing natural resources. It is about rethinking how you can use materials of all kinds.”

Upcycle is founded on the Reggio Emilia approach to learning, an education philosophy that believes everyone has perspectives and ideas that can be revealed through exploratory experiences with art and other open-ended materials. The value of collaboration is reflected in everything UpCycle offers.

UpCycle’s signature program, Tinker Time, relaunches this month at its Materials Center with a sponsorship to provide it free to families. This is an unstructured time of open exploration for all ages, though an adult must accompany children 12 and younger. At its center, UpCycle also offers workshops for youth and adults, as well as an extensive summer camp for ages 3 ½  to 10. The Materials Center can also accommodate school groups for field trips.

According to Esterlund, visitors say a trip to UpCycle sparks their creativity. She emphasizes that creativity fosters critical thinking, resourcefulness and innovation. “When children participate in creative processes, they learn to solve problems and think more flexibly, which are important life skills that lead to success in school and in life.” Esterlund said. “Furthermore, research shows that creative expression has a positive effect on mental health, reduces stress and promotes overall wellness.”

UpCycle took in more than 30,000 pounds of donations last year, saving material that likely would have been disposed of in the trash and incinerated. From paper to yarn, fabrics and paint, UpCycle has a variety of items for crafting and school projects. “Bottlecaps, plastic or metal bits, wood pieces, containers and all kinds of unusual and unexpected materials are perfect for sparking the imagination and helping people realize what they can do if they don’t throw out everyday items like these,” Esterland said. 

In celebration of Earth Day on Sat., April 22, 2023, UpCycle is offering free drop-in activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., giving community members the opportunity to see its redesigned space. To donate items, check out the UpCycle website and make an appointment.

  • 2022-23
  • Partner & Volunteer Highlight