Learning Journey: Reuse To Make Shoes

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Bear Park: Repurposing Shoes

The Remuera teaching team worked alongside the Tui children to extend and develop ideas around repurposing.

We believe that for children to appreciate the value in an object or material, they need to discover its true potential. Our team introduced the idea that discarded or recycled materials have unlimited possibilities, and the results were remarkable.

The group was given the opportunity to discover ways to reuse any objects that they thought no longer had a function, value or purpose. First, we reached out to parents at one of our parent evenings, to raise their awareness about the possibilities of discarded materials.

Bear Park: Harry's Shoes

Then, the children began to bring in discarded items from home. We explored the potential of each of these and everyone made suggestions about how to reuse them differently in the classroom.

This first step led to further discussions around other used or seemingly worthless materials within our environment. How do we make new paper out of scrap paper? How can we extract the leftover ink from our felt pens to make water colour paints? If we cover an old box with scrap paper, does this make it a new box? We even connected old yogurt lids to make a small table.

The period of initial discovery and debate sparked the children’s awareness. “How else can we make something new?” That’s when one of the Tui children suggested shoes!

Bear Park: Repurposing Shoes

As they imagined this idea in their heads, the prospect of making shoes seemed to entertain the children. There was lots of giggling and discussion. To challenge their perspective and validate the idea, a decision was made that we would all explore different materials to make our own pair of shoes.

At the time, there was lots of fascination around the abundance of yogurt lids we had (saved from the kitchen) and excitement around using the hot glue gun. A boy named Harry decided he was going to recreate the shoe he was wearing that day using these yogurt lids.

Harry’s Shoe:
Drawing on a previous learning experience in plan making, Harry decided that he would first trace the sole of his shoe. He then placed the lids side-by-side to form the shape of his shoe sole, before glueing each one together. He cut up an old glad wrap cardboard tube to create a strap.

Harry’s shoes were used as a provocation for the group and it wasn’t long before more of Harry’s classmates were inspired to reuse other materials and make their own pair.

Bear Park: Harry's Shoes

We talked about the functionality of shoes and what materials would help with walking, running and standing. For example, we don’t want to slip when playing outside, so what grippy material could we reuse for the sole?

As construction continued, the children could distinguish the differences in their designs, learning new techniques from each other.

Empathy, respect and reciprocity (where children help each other in mutual exchange) were key values learned in this exercise. Through the repurpose process, they learned that nothing is lost and that sometimes, with a bit of imagination and ingenuity, we can breathe new life into old.


We’re halfway through Plastic Free July but its not too late to consider how you can go plastic free this month! Check out the official website, there’s loads of great tips.

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