Classroom Maker Space Inspires Reuse and Creativity

A Maker Space Provides Enrichment to Any Learning Environment

Through tinkering and creative exploration, reuse inspires the engineers, designers, architects, and artists of tomorrow. One South Austin teacher is using reuse to inspire bright futures in the lives of her students. Lori Dinsmore, 1st-2nd grade teacher of the Whole Life Learning Center, believes in the power of reuse to foster tangible problem solving and hands on learning for her budding sapphires. 

Ms. Lori’s Maker Space was inspired by the engineering design process, encouraging students to design a solution, test their hypothesis, and improve on their methods. This process supports problem solving skills and critical thinking. Ms. Lori also uses the space to promote explorative creativity among the students through art projects and free build time. “It’s more about the process than the product. We are promoting a growth mindset and teaching the students how to improve through resilience.”

Why did you choose to create a maker space for your classroom?

“My students are very hands on, they like to build and construct things with 3D materials. I’ve watched their interests grow in different engineering projects, like working with clay and building spiderwebs from clothes hangers, and I know they are a group of problem solvers.”

What supplies do you keep in your maker space?

All of the supplies my Maker Space came from Austin Creative Reuse, including the plastic bins and magnetic spice containers used to store materials. Some of the materials I keep on hand include:

  • Index cards
  • Cotton balls
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Paper towel rolls
  • Miscellaneous hardware such as nuts, bolts and washers
  • Wheels 
  • Paper clips 
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Straws
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Plastic cups of various sizes
  • Cupcake/muffin wrappers
  • Plastic silverware
  • Paper plates
  • Shoelaces
  • Tape
  • Wooden dowels
  • Rubber bands
  • Play-doh
  • Glue guns 
  • Glue sticks
  • Plastic lids (found in bucket section of ACR)

I keep it all organized using printable labels similar to these:

Here are some of the projects Ms. Lori’s students have worked on:


Art Project

“Inspired by the book, Snowballs by Lois Elhert, we experimented with using non traditional materials from the maker space to create snowmen designs.”


Free-Build Project

These are not related to a specific engineering challenge. A plan is made for what materials are needed and how the student plans to execute their project, then they visit the maker space and gather the materials they need for their creation. 

The beginnings of a submarine

A water slide

Roller skates

Engineering Challenge

In an engineering challenge, students are introduced to a problem and given the materials to create a solution. Here’s an example of a challenge executed by Ms. Lori’s class:

Example of a completed catapult

Catapult: Make a catapult to test how far you can launch a pom pom 

Materials: Popsicle Sticks, Rubber bands, Pom pom, Plastic spoon, yardstick 

Materials for each group of 2-3 students: • 6 rubber bands • 10 popsicle sticks • 1 plastic spoon • 1 large pom pom (modify with more or less materials to make it easier or more challenging)


  1. Introduce challenge to students. Optional physical science connection: Mini-lesson on stored/potential energy, kinetic energy, simple machine: lever 
  2. Students can work individually, or in groups of 2-3. Students will sketch a plan with their team of their first draft design for their catapult. 
  3. After reviewing design, give students the materials listed above. They can begin building at this point. Teacher can choose time limit for build based on student needs and level of challenge. 
  4. Students test out their catapult and measure the distance using yardsticks. 
  5. After measuring, students go back and work to improve their design to see if they can make it go farther. 
  6. Students present their designs to the class and explain their building process. 
Other ideas for engineering challenges: 
  • Build the tallest tower you can that is able to hold a soup can using only tape and pieces of paper
  • Build a marble run 
  • Create a soda bottle airplane and test out different aerodynamic wing shapes out of cardboard
  • Build a raft that floats out of materials in the maker space, test it out in a tub of water by adding pennies for weight. 

The Recovery Gals Art Exchange

Written By: Sondra Primeaux, ACR Board Member

My name is Sondra and I am in recovery from alcohol abuse. I’m one of those sober people who is not anonymous and I work hard to help break the shame of addiction that keeps the addicted from accessing recovery. I’ve always been a creative person and I’d never valued my creative practices more than I did in early sobriety. I launched a blog in 2015 called The Unruffled as a place to catalog ideas for others in early recovery looking to fill the void that alcohol left behind. In 2017, I started The Unruffled Podcast with my friend Tammi Salas where through self-inquiry and interviews, we explore all the topics that result from the place creativity and recovery intersect. We opened a secret Facebook group as a space to grow our community (of women and female-identified only) and it has organically grown ever since. 

Shortly after the podcast launched, Tammi and I came up with an idea to encourage creativity within our online community. We’d noticed that while some of our members had embraced creativity as either a practice, a hobby or a career, others were less confident. We love to say, “Everyone is creative”. Rebuilding a life in recovery is a bold, creative act and the project was especially for the women who needed the nudge. We called it The Recovery Gals Art Exchange and launched the first one eight weeks before the Fall Equinox. We chose the theme of Reflection for the first one, put out a call for participants and drew for partners. It was like a written permission slip. All art was encouraged and in all of the quarterly exchanges we’ve hosted over the years (falling on the Equinoxes and Solstices), we’ve seen everything from song to poetry, from collage to textile art and everything in between. The only rules are that the art has to be either emailed or snail-mailed and that partners keep the lines of communication open. Partners have participated from nearly all fifty states and from all parts of the world. What started as a project to encourage creativity has become a beautiful opportunity to witness the connections forged between the partners, most of whom have never even met in person. 

As most of the country is still in Covid restrictions for the unforeseeable future, we are forced to rely on our online spaces for community. I wanted to share the art exchange as inspiration for other communities to start their own. My personal exchanges have all been made from reuse, which allows me to incorporate another of my values into the practice. By using reuse, not only are you saying “Everyone is creative” but you’re also saying “Art is accessible to all”. Whether you are in any kind of recovery or not, we could all use some of the healing that only creativity and connection can provide.

Artist: Sondra Primeaux

Artist: Sondra Primeaux


While I’d love to show you all of the beautiful art created over the years by the Recovery Gals Art Exchange, the Facebook group is secret to protect the anonymity of the members. But you can search the hashtag #recoverygalsartexchange on Instagram to see over a hundred amazing pieces of art from women who are out about their recovery. You can also shop at Austin Creative Reuse’s online store for any supplies you need while the center is closed right now. Most of us are still trying to make the best of our situation and I can’t think of a better way than to exchange art.


Staff Spotlight: Blessing Taclobao

Each month, we highlight one of our dedicated ACR staff members so you can get to know the folks behind your favorite reuse center! This month, it’s Reuse Specialist Blessing Taclobao. Blessing has been with ACR since 2019 and has helped us run open volunteer events, move centers, and grow from the inside out. Get to know Blessing a little more and follow their Mini Sensory Board Tutorial made from ACR scraps!

Blessing Taclobao

How did you find Austin Creative Reuse?

I just graduated from acc and I was looking for things to do immediately afterwards. I started looking for career opportunities and found ACR. 


What’s your favorite part about working at ACR?

I would say simply being able to look at the huge variety of things that get donated to us. It’s never a  dull day when you go through the processing bins. I also really enjoy being able to help customers with their craft projects. During my time at ACR, I’ve learned a lot about a wide variety of craft projects. Even stuff that I wouldn’t originally have had a lot of interest in, had I not started working here. 


Are you an artist, crafter, or maker? What mediums do you work with?

I would say that, truly, there isn’t a lot of distinction between those labels. I would probably call myself a maker. I do a lot of jewelry and beadwork. I do assemblage. I’m teaching myself how to weave and paint as well. Not sure if this counts, but I also do minor clothing repairs as well. 


What do you do when you’re not working at ACR?

I’m trying to think of an answer that isn’t running errands or surviving. Surviving, I guess. I’m always juggling a handful of projects at once. 


What’s the craziest thing you found in donation mountain?



Here are some jewelry pieces that Blessing contributed to our recent Reuse Gallery:



About Blessing:

After moving to Austin from Brownsville, TX in 2012, Blessing found this city an ideal space to grow their creative skills and meet fantastic people along the way. Outside of ACR, they can be found making jewelry, modifying clothes, thrifting, hunting for fossils, and standing RIGHT BEHIND YOU. 

Make: DIY Mini Sensory Board

DIY Mini Sensory Board


Make a mini sensory board for your little ones using extra materials! This simple assemblage can be a fun craft to make with your kids, or a great way to use up those scraps as well as keep those little hands busy. Our Reuse Specialist, Blessing, walks you through the steps below.


  • 1 8”x10” or larger picture frame (w/ removable back)
  • 1 sheet of felt (optional)
  • Glue gun & glue sticks
  • A variety of materials with interesting textures (make sure they’re kid-safe, if making for a small child)


  1. Remove the glass/plastic front of the frame. 
  2. Hot glue the felt sheet to the inner backing of the frame and cut off excess.

3.  Arrange your textured materials on the board; cut to desired shape and size if applicable. If using yarn, cut a strand, tie a knot in the middle, and glue all the knots together on one spot of the board for a fun fur patch.

4.  Hot glue materials into place. Make sure they’re securely glued onto the board. 

5.  Fit the board back into the frame and enjoy!



Start the New Year with Gratitude!

It’s a New Year! Each year we begin fresh and ready to create the lives of our dreams. The process to fulfillment starts first with gratitude. Practicing gratitude regularly in your life will bring happiness, satisfaction, and appreciation for the life you currently live, and improve your outlook on the future.



Help you and your family be grateful this year by starting a gratitude jar or journal. To start a gratitude jar, get any jar you have laying around the house, or get one from, and place it somewhere centrally in your house like the mantle or dining room table. You can decorate the jar with whatever you’d like – this tutorial shows a fun way to create a colorful, glittery jar with your kids. Everyday, write down something you are grateful for and put it in the jar. Watch your wealth of gratitude grow as the year goes on. You can regularly pick notes out of the jar and remind yourself of things you are grateful for.


Similarly, use a journal to write down what you are grateful for each day. Grab a journal from our online store and use it to express gratitude in your life. Use these prompts to get you started. Don’t be afraid to make your own!


Helpful tips:

-Be consistent. Make gratitude a part of your daily routine.

-Be specific. Among the big things, what little things are you grateful for?


Happy New Year!


December Reuse and Rethink Winner: Bella L!

Last month, we challenged you to find alternatives to wrapping paper for the holiday season. We’re pleased to announce Bella L as the winner! Her Sprite bottle gift box was the most unconventional of all the submissions and gave a piece of “trash” a new life of reuse! 




We applaud all of the contestants for choosing reuse this holiday season and are continuously inspired by the creativity of our reuse community! Here’s a look at some of the other submissions:


January Reuse and Rethink: Organizing Hacks

January is National Organization Month!

Every January, folks tend to start off the new year fresh by clearing out the physical clutter in their lives, and organizing what they want they want to keep.

This month, we challenge you rethink traditional organizing methods and show us your best reuse hacks!

Guidelines for Entry:

  1. Objects must be reused
  2. Submissions will be judged on creativity and use of reused objects
  3. Submissions must be made on or before the deadline.

Submit at least 2 photos, a description of materials used, and any social media handles you’d like us to tag if selected as the winner to by midnight on Sunday, January 31st.

The winner will receive a $10 ACR e-gift card! E-gift cards can be used in our online store, or saved to use in the center once we reopen.

Let’s get organizing!

Put those bread tabs to use!


Use an egg carton to get every last drop out of your condiments!


Upcycle a mason jar into a toothbrush holder

2020: A Year of Firsts

The Year in Review: 2020

At Austin Creative Reuse, the past 12 months have been a year of learning, adaptation, and firsts. We started the year by making our first move since opening up Austin’s first creative reuse center, we hired our first Retail Manager, and we experienced the first pandemic in our lifetime. While initially it was challenging, the ongoing pandemic provided an opportunity for us to adapt and get creative with how to get reuse materials into the hands of our community. In response, we opened our first online store, held outdoor sidewalk sales for the first time, hosted our first reuse gallery and market, hosted our first virtual workshop, and offered virtual shopping for the first time. We have truly had an unforgettable year and we thank everyone who has and continues to support us along the way.

Despite the impact 2020 had on ACR, we were still able to accomplish much throughout this one-of-a-kind year. Here’s a look back at the year in numbers:

  • 1 Virtual workshop series hosted
  • 2 Days spent moving into our new location
  • 9 Virtual field trips hosted
  • 24 Outdoor sidewalk sales held
  • 33 Vendors for our first outdoor market
  • 45 New core volunteers onboarded
  • 120 Pieces selected for our first online reuse gallery
  • 160 Days closed to the public due to the pandemic
  • 658 Dollars worth of materials donated to mask-making initiatives
  • 2,374 Online orders
  • 8,063 Hours contributed by volunteers
  • 17,048 Items sold during the sidewalk sales
  • 232,793 Pounds of material diverted from the landfill
  • 315,599 Dollars in sales

We can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store for us. Happy New Year!

End of Year Update: A Letter From Our Executive Director

Executive Director Update – End of Year 2020


Greetings, ACR Community!


As we prepare to say goodbye to another year, we would like to take a moment to celebrate the dedicated community that lifted us up every day in 2020.  At ACR, we aim to build a community that inspires, encourages and supports each other, and during this challenging year, you have inspired, encouraged and supported us. Because of you, ACR has continued to stay strong and to grow, even in the midst of a global pandemic.  Thank you for helping us make reuse dreams come true!


In 2020, ACR celebrated the fifth anniversary of our opening Austin’s first and only creative reuse center.  In honor of that milestone, here are five things we’re looking forward to in 2021:


  1. Creating a vibrant community destination in East Austin.  We chose our new location in the Windsor Park neighborhood of East Austin for its potential to be more than a retail store.  We look forward to continuing to grow into our new space in 2021 and to creating a place where folks can come to learn, explore and create with us through workshops, artist collaborations, reuse galleries and markets, and more.  
  2. Pursuing joyful collaborations.  The pandemic has impacted Austin’s communities and community organizations in so many different ways.  As we all continue to adapt, we look forward to continuing to support existing partners through these changes and to building new partnerships with groups working throughout Austin.  We aim to be a good neighbor by building strong relationships with Windsor Park’s neighborhood schools, libraries, small businesses and other community groups.
  3. Welcoming new volunteers.  Volunteers have always been an integral part of our team. Their generous gifts of time and talent – 47% of our total labor hours in our last fiscal year! – keep our wheels turning and connect the community to our work.  We look forward to the launch of our new volunteer portal in 2021 which will expand volunteer opportunities and make it easier than ever to volunteer with ACR.  
  4. Bringing reuse out into the community.  At ACR, we believe that conservation is a job that needs all of us.  We look forward to expanding our outreach and education initiatives in 2021 and sharing the joy and impact of creative reuse throughout our community.
  5. Seeing your smiling faces again.  We have missed you this year.  We look forward to the day when we can safely reopen our new center at full capacity and bring our community back together again.

Like all good things, we know that 2021 will not always be easy.  As I write this, Covid-19 cases in Austin continue to rise and our center is once again closed to the public for the safety and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers and community.  There are still challenges to come.  You can help ACR meet those challenges by shopping in our online store, buying a gift card for yourself or a friend, donating gently used creative materials, making a financial contribution or simply sharing your love for ACR with your friends and family.


From all of us at ACR, we wish you health and happiness in 2021!


~ Jennifer Evans

Executive Director

December 28, 2020

Make: New Year’s Eve Confetti Cannon

Celebrate NYE in style with this simple, DIY confetti cannon

Supplies: toilet paper tubes, balloons, confetti, tape, scissors, paper, glue

Step 1 – Tie the bottom of the balloon, cut the top, and place on one end of the tube.

Step 2 – Secure the balloon to the tube with tape.

Step 3 – Decorate the tube with colorful paper, stickers, ribbon, or markers.

Step 4 – Fill with a few tablespoons of confetti, pull the balloon, and POP!

2005 Wheless Lane, Austin, TX 78723
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