LONDONDERRY — Reduce, reuse, recycle is a mantra introduced to students starting in first grade. 

Eco-artist Cynthia Robinson spent a week at South School showing each grade an artistic side to the concepts.

"They hear this saying all the time, but do they really know what it means?" Robinson said. "I really wanted to show them what happens after they throw things in the recycling bin and how it can become art."

With the help of South School art teacher Marcia Connors, Robinson instructed first- and second-graders on how to make paper. Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders decorated concrete stepping stones with recycled materials.

For the second year, Robinson has been asked to take over the school's art curriculum for a week. As an eco-artist, she travels to different schools around New England to teach the contemporary art form. 

Practiced by those concerned about local and global environmental situations, they take art making to a functional format, she said.

"I like to be out of the box and connect as many different topics as I can back to art," Robinson said. "Art is about communicating where, when and how we live."

The process of making paper begins with tearing up scraps of paper, left over from previous art projects, then soaking them in water and blending. The leftover pulp mixture is pushed into trays with leaves, grass and dried flowers for decoration.

"The lesson there is how many times you can use a piece of paper," Robinson said. "They'll each end up with a decorative piece of homemade paper from materials found in nature during this time of year."

While Connors fills drying racks with the student-made paper, Robinson prepares bottle caps for the next group of fifth-graders. Every other week, Robinson shows up at local town transfer stations and walks away with bags of bottle caps that would otherwise end up in landfills.

By the end of the week, at least 2,000 bottle caps, as well as beads and straws, were refurbished and used in the stepping stones. While some will be taken home, others will end up in one of the school's gardens.

"It's incredible that we didn't buy any of these supplies," Connors said. "They have all been donated to me by parents or collected by Cynthia."

Some of the student art created during Robinson's visit will be featured in South School's upcoming annual art show on April 22.

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