Conserving Trees and Recycling Paper: A Picture Book Lesson

Our recycled paper is not as smooth or uniformly white as store-bought paper. It has personality. But recycling paper ourselves was fun and taught us about the recycling process.

To prepare for Earth Day and Arbor Day, we learned about conserving trees by recycling paper in our kitchen. Reading The Great Paper Caper, a silly mystery story, prompted this fun, hands-on science lesson.

Recycling Paper at Home

I made paper when I was in middle school. We even learned to bind it into a book. I must say that this, my first attempt to make paper as an adult, was not as smooth sailing as it had been when I was in a school art classroom with a special mould and deckle just for this purpose. I made everything myself here, and it was not as easy as I remembered.

We ripped up old worksheets and coloring pages we'd made to try our hand at recycling paper. I made a mould with a picture frame

First, I enlisted the help of my kids to rip paper into super small sizes. They tired quickly. But my preschooler helped mush the paper in the water to break up the fibers! I also used the meat mallet to work through it a little more. It was suggested online that we put it in the blender. But, on one website, it then said, “Don’t plan on using this for food again.” So I decided to spare the blender!

Once the paper mush had sat for a night in the water, I prepared a mould. I used some window screen I had. I stapled it to both sides of an old picture frame. This was a mistake! The window screen was much too flexible, so it was difficult to get it tight enough on the deck. Next time, I’ll have to buy some stronger netting. Nevertheless, I made it work. I submerged the deck in to the paper pulp, lifted it and let the water drip, and then placed on a towel to drip some more. From what I have since read, you should not use fiberglass window screen, and there are more steps I should hve included!

When it was a little more dry, I used a piece of plastic to flip it over and remove paper from the mould. It took more than a day to dry! It is not as smooth as I had wanted, nor as pretty. But I think it turned out okay! It definitely has personality.

We wrote and drew on our recycled paper. Strawberry was excited that she could draw on the same pages that she'd already had a picture on before!

Although Strawberry liked drawing on it, she is a little disappointed it is bumpy; it is not as she expected. Raisin thought it an interesting project and was quick to write a note on it. My toddler, Kitty, has enjoyed finding bits of paper everywhere on the floor since we made it.

A Conservation Story in The Great Paper Caper

Before we made our paper, we read a fun story about trees, the need for conservation, and making paper.

In The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers, the animals of the forest are perplexed when their tree branches and trees begin to disappear. Something is not right. It’s a mystery, until they find the clues leading to Bear, who has been cutting trees to make paper so he can fly paper airplanes. With the help of the other forest creatures, he plants trees to make up for those now missing. Plus, with the help of the others, the animals are able to recycle all of his failed attempts when they make a huge paper airplane!

The Great Paper Caper is a great book to talk about replanting trees and recycling paper. It's also a spring board for us to try our own recycled paper.

This story gave us plenty to talk about. Here are some items we discussed as we laughed at the pictures:

  • Why are the forest animals sad that the branches and trees are missing?
  • Did you know paper comes from trees? How do you think a tree is made into paper? Is the illustration accurate?
  • How are the trees bear plants different from those that he cut down?
  • How would you design a winning paper airplane? What do you think of their design?
The Great Paper Caper is a great book to talk about replanting trees and recycling paper. It's also a spring board for us to try our own recycled paper.

It’s a perfect stepping stone to a discussion about more serious issues: the disappearing rain forest, the habitats that depend on trees, the cost and time required to wait for a tree to grow. I think The Great Paper Caper is a perfect book for discussing conservation.

Learning More about Conserving Trees and Recycling Paper

We learned more about recycling paper and conservation of trees with these shows.
Deforestation and the Effect on Climate.

The Amazon: Lungs of our Planet.

Deforestation Time Lapse.

Paper is made from trees.

Mighty Machines: Episode about recycling machines. (The kids love this show. The machines “talk” the entire time.)

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Reading The Great Paper Caper was a nice segue into recycling our own paper and learning about tree conservation.


Storybook Science: Conservation

For the next month, my fellow bloggers will be sharing storybook science ideas! This week, we’re focusing on “Conservation” science. Click the image below to see the other posts.

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