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Art & Sustainability: A Youth Summer Camp Curriculum for Churches


What follows is a three-day curriculum for churches to utilize in creating a summer camp on the topics of art and sustainability. Each “day” would only last about 3 hours, and would therefore cater well to a morning time slot. Although it is geared towards the elementary level, the content is purposefully digestible to a wider youth audience, so that smaller churches can include older children as well. Moreover, the crafts all include freedom for creativity, so campers at any age or skill can create according to their own level.

One of the chief purposes of this curriculum is to combat spatial-temporal discounting. Because humans tend to discount people or things that we perceive as far away from us in either time or space, this phenomenon occurs. In the words of Dr. John Mustol, “We are more likely to take action in response to threats that are immediately & physically present – that are personal, tangible, & immediate, than we are to threats that are far away, impersonal, & intangible.”[1] According to Mustol, spatial-temporal discounting makes it difficult for us to grasp realities such as climate change, much less take action to address and rectify them. Therefore, by making time in the natural outdoors just as intrinsic to the curriculum as sustainability education, this camp aims to foster an appreciation and closeness with the environment, such that the information becomes more personal and pertinent.

The core daily activity is an art project—each made in a sustainable fashion to demonstrate learned knowledge. Additionally, making art is a way for the participants to live out their inherent imago dei: to mirror their Creator God with their own hands and imagination. The American author, environmental activist, and farmer Wendell Berry said: “We must see that no art begins in itself; it begins in other arts, in attitudes and ideas antecedent to any art, and in nature.” He continues: “Traditionally, the arts have been ways of making that have placed a just value upon their materials or subjects, upon the uses and the users of the things made by art, and upon the artists themselves. They have, that is, been ways of giving honor to the works of God.”[2]

For snack time each day, campers will have the opportunity to weigh the waste they have each produced. It will be explained to campers that in the United States, food waste takes up between 30-40 percent of the food supply.[3] This massively affects society in multiple ways, including food being sent to landfills rather than the bellies of hungry families in need, and land, water, labor, and energy going to waste to produce, process, transport and dispose of discarded food.[4] Therefore, campers will use provided scales to weigh their individual food waste after each day’s snack time and subsequently record the numbers on a poster board. Afterwards, they will select the appropriate labeled bin (recycling, garbage, or compost) to throw their waste into. The goal will be to grab and eat only what you need, and be conscious of which materials you send to the landfill—but it will be a concerted effort: if the collective number has gone down by the third day, campers will receive some sort of prize.

The theological implications of this camp's tenants—connection, Creation, art, and sustainability—will not be lost on campers, as each day will close with a devotional time of several Scripture readings and questions for reflection.

At the end of the camp, participants will have the option to volunteer their art (printed photographs of the found object art, greeting cards made from the recycled crayons and paper, and the botanical sun-catchers) to be showcased in the church bookstore or lobby and put up for sale. Counselors can decide on a few local charities doing solid work in the sphere of Creation care and campers can vote on which one they would like to proceeds to benefit.

Hopefully, this camp can help form habits that campers can not only bring into their respective homes but into adulthood.

Day I


Connection and Collaboration with Nature


From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep, we are bombarded with distractions, be it shows and their commercials, the black hole of social media, endless advertisements, or sound pollution from airplanes to vacuum cleaners. Humans are constantly surrounded by things that we have made for the purpose of making things easier for us: which is what the word technology means. Of course, technology has helped the world in countless ways. However, sometimes it is necessary to get away from it, and remember the Christian Creation story, that started in a garden. Can anyone tell that story? After God created the first humans, he settled us in the garden and told us to farm and take care of it (Gen. 2:15, CEB). Farming is a form of technology (it is how we can eat and survive!), which proves that it is not inherently bad. But in many ways, we focus on how we can use Creation for our benefit, while forgetting the other command: to take care of it. This is called being stewards of Creation.

Sometimes, though, it is difficult to take care of something when you don’t know it very well. Can you think of any examples? So today, we are going to go outside and get to know the nature. We will be doing this by an activity called found object art.

A found object is a natural or man-made object—or fragment of an object—that is found by an artist and kept because of some intrinsic interest the artist sees in it.[5] One famous artist who utilizes this kind of art in nature is Andy Goldsworthy. [Watch video].


Now, let’s form groups, head outside and make our own art pieces using natural found objects! Remember to take care of Creation while doing this; that means: use leaves, sticks, or flowers that have fallen from the ground rather than picking and killing them. Also, once your group is done with your piece, we will take a photograph of it, and some of it might have to return to its natural location. [You can also instruct campers to pick up any trash while they outside].


Found Object Art


Snack Time: 

Weigh, Record, and Separate Waste.


Job 12:7–10 (ESV)

  • “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
    the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
    8 or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;[a]
    and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
    9 Who among all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
    10 In his hand is the life of every living thing
    and the breath of all mankind.

Matthew 6:25–34 (ESV)

  • 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[g] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

1 Corinthians 4:2 (ESV)

  • Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

Questions for Reflection:

  • What was your experience making the found object art? How did it feel?
  • What can we learn from being outside in Creation?
  • What do you think it means to be stewards of Creation? What are some ways you can do this every day?

Day II


From Trash to Treasure


Often times when we flush the toilet, flip the switch to the disposal, or take out the trash, we think we are making the products we used just go away. But in reality, they don’t ever go away, they just go somewhere else. A lot of the time, this is not a good thing. Because what we flush down the drain pollutes our oceans, harming, killing, and even wiping out plant and animal species. The garbage that our parents take to the curb every week winds up in landfills where the material is supposed to break down into the dirt. Now, can anyone name examples of things made of plastic that you only use once and then throw away? More than half of the plastics that end up in the landfill are for one-time disposable use, and most plastics are not biodegradable, which means that they take decades—sometimes even millennia—to break down.

Ways to reduce the amount of garbage we generate include source reduction (designing or purchasing products that will reduce the amount of material that will later have to be thrown away), recycling (the recovery of useful materials, such as paper, glass, plastic, and metals, from the trash to use to make new products), and composting (collecting organic waste, such as food scraps and yard trimmings, and storing it under conditions designed to help it break down naturally. The resulting compost can be used as a natural fertilizer).[8]

Sometimes, products can be recycled into the very same product, and they can have an entirely second life! One of these is paper, and another is wax, which crayons are made out of! Today, we will be using old paper scraps to make beautiful handmade paper, and using old broken crayon pieces to make new funky new crayons! Tomorrow, we will get to use these new recycled items to make greeting cards.


Recycled Homemade Paper and Crayons

Part I: Homemade Paper


  • Scrap paper (campers will have been asked to bring old newspaper or magazine clippings, used coloring sheets, or old printed material from home)
  • Water
  • Bowls
  • Blender
  • Wire hangers (brought from home)
  • Baking Pans
  • Duct Tape
  • Stockings (brought from home)


  1. 1. Tear paper into small pieces and put them in a bowl.
  2. 2. Cover the paper with water and allow time to soak.
  3. 3. Once the paper is soggy, use your hands to squeeze out any excess water, then put it in the bender and grind it into a pulp.
  4. 4. Bend a wire hanger into a rectangle and tape the ends together with duct tape, then stretch a pair of stockings over the frame. Place it onto a baking pan.
  5. 5. Scoop out the pulp from the blender and mash it onto the stocking sieve.
  6. 6. Let the paper dry overnight! (Will use tomorrow).[10]

Part II: Homemade Crayons



  • Old broken crayons (brought from home)
  • Muffin tins


  1. 1. Unwrap old crayons and break them into small pieces.
  2. 2. Preheat oven to 250 F.
  3. 3. Fill the cups of the muffin tin with a 1-inch-thick layer of crayon bits. Feel free to mix and match the colors!
  4. 4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the wax has fully melted.
  5. 5. Allow the crayons to cool and harden, and then pop them out, and they are ready to use for tomorrow![12]

Snack Time: 

Weigh, Record, and Separate Waste.


Jeremiah 18:1–6 (ESV)

  • The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear[a] my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Romans 8:19-22 (ESV)

  • 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

John 6:12 (NIV)

  • 12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”

Questions for Reflection:

  • How is what we did today like the passage with the potter and the clay?
  • How does God make old things new?
  • What are some ways you can make old things new?



Radical Renewable Resources


Energy is the power that allows things to change and move. There are many different sources of energy on and around the earth. What do you think the biggest source is? The sun! The sun is a star at the center of our solar system and it produces energy by fusing atoms of hydrogen together to make helium—a process that makes heaps of energy.[13] Getting energy from the sun is very beneficial as it is not going to run out any time soon. However, humans use energy from other sources, too, that are not only running out (which is why they are called non-renewable energy sources), but cause devastation to our planet in a variety of ways. For example, we have invented machines to burn coal and drill for oil from the beneath the earth’s surface. Using these sources of energy damages our lungs, disrupts natural systems, and creates the byproduct of carbon dioxide, which gets trapped in our atmosphere and causes strange climate and weather patterns through global warming. Renewable energy sources, on the other hand, such as solar and wind, are much better for the health of us and that of our planet! In other words, they are sustainable.

Today, we will be doing another craft involving recycling—this time with old plastic CD cases that will become art instead of trash in the landfill. We will make beautiful botanical sun catchers as a way to remember and appreciate our biggest and brightest renewable energy source that provides for us in so many ways.

Project I

CD Case Sun Catchers



  • Empty (Used) Clear CD Jewel Cases (These can be on the list for campers to bring if there are any laying around the house)
  • Clear Self-Adhesive Shelf Liner
  • Colored Masking tape
  • Twine
  • Petals, Leaves, etc.


  1. 1. Take a stroll around the premises collecting pretty petals, leaves, or small plants that have fallen to the ground.
  2. 2. Trace a CD case onto a sheet of adhesive shelf liner and cut around the outline.
  3. 3. Remove the back of a case, and arrange plants how you wish on the top of the case.
  4. 4. Place the cut out liner on top of the botanical design, ad trim any excess.
  5. 5. Make a colorful border around the edges with masking tape.[15]

Snack Time: 

Weigh, Record, and Separate Waste.

Project II: 

Recycled Greeting Cards


  • The homemade paper that has dried overnight
  • Yesterday’s homemade crayons
  • Scissors


  1. 1. Cut pieces of paper into rectangles, and fold into cards.
  2. 2. Color the front on the card; get creative! You may want to draw some of the plants you have seen at camp so far.


Psalm 19:1–6 (ESV)

  • The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above[a] proclaims his handiwork.
    2 Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
    3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
    4 Their voice[b] goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
    In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
    6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Exodus 35:30-35 (ESV)

  • 30 Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, 32 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. 34 And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.

Questions for Reflection:

  • What is renewable energy and why is it so important?
  • In what ways might God be like the sun?
  • How are art and sustainability related?
  • What were your favorite parts from camp?


Give campers several options of local charities to vote on. Then, allow students to either bring their art home with them or donate it to be sold to congregants—the proceeds from which would benefit the chosen charity.


[1] John Mustol, “Lecture 7A Climate Change: Human Response,” Lecture, Fuller Theological Seminary, April 5, 2020.

[2] Wendell Berry, “Christianity and the Survival of Creation,” Crosscurrents. Association for Religion & Intellectual Life, accessed June 4, 2020, [3] “Food" class="redactor-autoparser-object">https://crosscurrents.org/berr... Waste FAQ’s,” USDA, accessed June 4, 2020, https://www.usda.gov/foodwaste/faqs#:~:text=In%20the%20United%20States%2C%20food,worth%20of%20food%20in%202010.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Tate, “Found Object – Art Tem, “ Tate, accessed June 3, 2020, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/f/found-object.

[6] “Who is Andy Goldsworthy?” Culture Street, July 15, 2014, accessed June 4, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIQKZghtyiY.

[7] Andy Goldsworthy, Sarah Beekmans, accessed June 4, 2020, [8] Roslynn" class="redactor-autoparser-object">https://www.sarahbeekmans.com/... Brain, Brett Tingey, and Sally Upton, Sustainable You! Summer Camp, PDF file, https://ucanr.edu/sites/Ventura4-Hsustainabilityprogra/files/195011.pdf, 20.

[9] “Make Your Own Paper,” PBS (Public Broadcasting Service), accessed June 4, 2020, [10] Ibid.

[11] “Kid’s" class="redactor-autoparser-object">https://www.pbs.org/parents/cr... Craft: How to Make Recycled Crayons,” HGTV, accessed June 9, 2020, https://www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/handmade/kids-craft-how-to-make-recycled-crayons.

[12] Adapted from Erin Huffstetler, “How Do You Make New Crayons out of Old Crayons?,” The Spruce Crafts, August 14, 2019, https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/how-to-recycle-old-crayons-into-new-crayons-1388486.

[13] Brain, Tingey, and Upton, Sustainable You! Summer Camp, 74.

[14] Adapted from “Botanical Sun Catchers,” Inner Child Fun, August 7, 2015, https://innerchildfun.com/2015/08/botanical-sun-catchers.html.

[15] Ibid.


Berry, Wendell. “Christianity and the Survival of Creation.” Crosscurrents. Association for Religion & Intellectual Life. Accessed June 4, 2020. https://crosscurrents.org/berry.htm.

“Botanical Sun Catchers.” Inner Child Fun, August 7, 2015. https://innerchildfun.com/2015/08/botanical-sun-catchers.html.

Brain, Roslynn, Brett Tingey, and Sally Upton. Sustainable You! Summer Camp. PDF file. https://ucanr.edu/sites/Ventura4-Hsustainabilityprogra/files/195011.pdf.

“Food Waste FAQs.” USDA. United States Government. Accessed June 4, 2020. https://www.usda.gov/foodwaste... the United States, food,worth of food in 2010.

Goldsworthy, Andy. SarahBeekmans. SarahBeekmans. Accessed June 4, 2020. https://www.sarahbeekmans.com/andy-goldsworthy/.

Huffstetler, Erin. “How Do You Make New Crayons out of Old Crayons?” The Spruce Crafts, August 14, 2019. https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/how-to-recycle-old-crayons-into-new-crayons-1388486.

“Make Your Own Paper.” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service. Accessed June 4, 2020. https://www.pbs.org/parents/crafts-and-experiments/make-your-own-paper.

Mustol, John. “Lecture 7A Climate Change: Human Response.” Lecture. Fuller Theological Seminary. April 5, 2020.

Tate. “Found Object – Art Term.” Tate. Accessed June 3, 2020. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/f/found-object.

“Who is Andy Goldsworthy?” Culture Street. July 15, 2014, Accessed June 4, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIQKZghtyiY.