Recycled Plastic Flowers Art and Science Project

This is pretty much the prettiest science experiment we’ve ever done. Through the magical chemistry of polymers, you can turn recycled plastic into a beautiful flower garden or bouquet. So save your plastic cups and plates from that party or snacktime at school and make someone just as happy as real flowers do. This is the Recycled Plastic Flowers Art and Science Project and it’s part of 28 Days of Hands-On STEM Activities for Kids, a fun blog series in February. This post contains affiliate links.

The magic of science makes these recycled plastic flowers beautiful. It's a great STEM / STEAM project for kids.

The magic of science makes these recycled plastic flowers beautiful. It's a great STEM / STEAM project for kids.

Recycled Plastic Flowers Supplies Needed

Make Your Flowers

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 ºF.
  2. Color your plates, cups & bowls with Sharpie marker. I found that it helps to color them as completely as possible, especially in the very center because that’s where the glue to hold the stem goes. The glue shows if you don’t color that part.
  3. Cut slits in the sides of each using scissors. Careful as sometimes plastic pieces go flying.
  4. Place plastic pieces on foil covered baking sheet and bake for 2-5 minutes. Be sure to watch your pieces in the oven, both because it’s cool to see them melt and curl up, but also to make sure you don’t leave them in too long. Also, it’s a good idea to put the fan on or open a window for ventilation because melting plastic can get a little smelly.

Make Recycled Plastic Flowers Left Brain Craft Brain

  1. Let cool and hot glue gun your covered floral stem to the back center of the flower. You can also glue on an additional pieces of plastic that you want to add to the flower.  I used one of the shot glasses to make a center petal trumpet like a daffodil’s.

We made a few different flowers. And by a few, I mean, we do this project almost daily because it’s so fun! Good thing you can find the cups at the dollar store!! I suppose it’s not really a recycled project if you have to keep going out to get more plastic, but my house is now really colorful…

Recycled Flower Closeup Left Brain Craft Brain

What’s the Science Behind These Flowers?

This flower forming works because of the characteristics of the plastic in the cups & plates. The heat of the oven changes the alignment of the polymer chains within the plastic. In the cup and plate manufacturing process, a polymer resin is heated, extruded, rolled into flat sheets and then molded. This process aligns the polymers into an orderly pattern, but the heat of the oven returns them to their naturally disordered, clumped state. Gravity and the placement of the cuts define how they crumple. #6 plastic works well in this project because its melting point is low enough for the oven to reach. Want to learn more about polymers? Try some edible ones with these Homemade Fruit Gummies.

Flower Garden in Foam Left Brain Craft Brain

This project is a great way to learn some scientific method stuff, too. Here are a few discussion points:

  • What do you think impacts the final shape of the flower? Form a hypothesis, then try varying the number and size of the cuts as well as the time in the oven. Did the results match your hypothesis? Form your conclusion.
  • What would happen if you changed the temperature of the oven? The type of plastic?
  • Would this work with other kinds of markers? Why or why not? Test it to be sure.

Group Projects, Gifts and Cheer Me Ups

There are so many things you could do with these flowers. I love the idea of a community art & science project. Everyone can cut and color their own flowers and just like snowflakes, no two will be the same. Then you can “plant” them in terracotta pots or in floral foam. They make a beautiful bouquet, too. I love that the addition of art to STEM makes this project really shine.

The magic of science makes these recycled plastic flowers beautiful. It's a great STEM / STEAM project for kids.

28 Days of Hands-On STEM

This post is a part of an amazing series of hands-on STEM activities for kids. I’ve joined up with 28 other bloggers and we’re creating 60+ fun science, technology, engineering & math activities. Each week is a different topic: STEM Goes Green, STEM Challenges, Coding for Kids & STEM On the Cheap.  Click here for the full list of activities.

28 Days of Hands On STEM featured

Looking for some more STEAM inspiration that you can use right now? Instant gratification style? Check out STEAM Explorers!! The coolest creative experience for kids is here! It's a digital book of the month club filled with tons of fun stuff for the kids to do and learn. All engineer, teacher, and mom-approved. And most definitely KID APPROVED!⁣

What’s included?⁣

  • A monthly digital magazine with cool themes that are fun to read
  • Hands-on, exciting projects the kids will love.⁣
  • Science, tech, engineering, art, and math learning YOU’LL love.⁣
  • Delicious recipes the kids can make.⁣
  • Fun printables and games⁣

Join us as we make some music in March!! All in the name of having fun with STEAM, of course. We’re exploring sound waves and animal ears and of course, music through hands-on projects the kids will love. The kids will love creating their own rhythms, testing sound with spoons, seeing sound waves with salt, amping up their ear power with paper, and so much more! You’ll love the helpful standards-based learning, printables, and tools that make STEAM exploration easy! 

We’ve split the issue into four weekly themes:

  • This issue has four weekly themes to inspire your kiddos:

26 thoughts on “Recycled Plastic Flowers Art and Science Project”

  1. Pingback: 28 Days of Hands-On STEM Activities for Kids - Left Brain Craft Brain

  2. Wow! These are absolutely stunning Anne! I think I might try these with my KG students this spring (and probably at home too!) They look like stained glass flowers. So pretty! Love your ideas!

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