Are you taking advantage of cardboard in your art classes? Cardboard is one of my secrets to art teaching success. In these times of diminishing art supply budgets and overwhelming class sizes, cardboard can become your best friend. Not only is cardboard abundant, it is resilient and versatile.
Here are my top 5 reasons cardboard can help art educators with their classes.
1. Cardboard Is Cheap or Free
All it takes to get free cardboard is a little extra effort when you are out and about. Cardboard is found just about everywhere, from restaurants to paint stores. Most establishments recycle their cardboard, and they are eager to give it away or donate it to your classroom. Pizza parlors will often donate a stack of fifty pizza boxes to my art program. Paint stores are constantly giving away their cardboard paint flats. Grocery stores have heaps of cardboard waiting to be crushed in the baler. All you need to do is to politely ask to take some cardboard off an establishment’s hands, and often you will receive a substantial amount.
If you are not lucky enough to acquire all the donated cardboard you need for a given project, it is relatively cheap to purchase. For example, a set of fifty flat pizza boxes can be as little as $20 (plus delivery). Cutting that amount of cardboard can easily provide enough material for an entire class project.
2. Cardboard Holds Supplies
Markers, colored pencils, paint tubes, water cans, and most art media can be stored in cardboard boxes. I use cardboard flats from paint stores as portable trays that hold paint tubes and palette knives for students to take to their tables. Those same flats are great for holding cans, markers, primer, and any other set of materials that needs to be organized. Cardboard flats allow smaller table groups to easily retrieve sets of materials instead of having a free-for-all storage area somewhere in your room.
3. Cardboard Makes a Great Painting Surface
The pizza box makes a wonderful painting surface. One full pizza box can be cut down into two to four pieces. Cardboard also stimulates student interests. For some reason, when I bring out stacks of sliced cardboard to distribute as the next project surface, students treat it more seriously than paper.
Cardboard usually absorbs paint pretty well, but it can have a tendency to curl at the corners. The curling effect happens from only painting on one side. The first step with students when painting on cardboard is to paint a giant “X” on the back side. I like to use primer for this activity, but any type of paint should work fine. Have students apply a generous amount of paint from corner to corner and allow it to dry. The next day, have students put primer on the front side of the box and it should flatten out and remain flat for the most part. If it curls after that, I have students repaint the back side of the cardboard and place a heavy object on top of it to weigh it down. Once that dries, it is usually quite flat.