The end of the school year or semester is wonderful and exciting …except for the waste.

Rather than having students chunk their partially used notebooks into the recycling bin, have them upcycle them by creating new notebooks or journals.

Here’s how:

Fun up-cycle project for students.  Earth Day activity that encourages creative reuse of items students would normally throw away.

I want you to know that this post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small fee from any qualifying purchases you make. You can read more here.

Whether or not it’s Earth Day , students often need a gentle reminder that one of the 3Rs is “reuse.”  As teachers, we see lots of waste and know that partially used notebooks can be given new life (and save $$).

This project gives a second life to:

  • a cardboard box (like a cereal or cracker box)
  • spiral notebook pages
  • craft paper or computer paper (can be printed on one side)
  • graph paper

Steps to Upcycle It

Step 1: Supplies

Upcycle school supplies to create a fun notebook or journal.

You probably have most of the items you need:

  • an old notebook
  • left over graph paper
  • scissors
  • glue stick
  • craft paper, construction paper, old maps, wrapping paper, coloring book pages…use your imagination!
  • a cardboard box (I used a Triscuit box to make a small notebook, but cereal and frozen pizza boxes work great — you don’t want really thick cardboard because it will make the book difficult to cut)
  • three-hole punch (you’ll need a heavy-duty one)
  • brads – or – a rubber band and a paper clip — or buttons and string
  • colored pencils, markers, crayons

Also nice to have:

  • old magazines
  • random stickers
  • left over lunch tickets
  • any other “ephemera” from the school year

Step 2: Make a cover

Covers can be made of notebook covers, empty boxes, tag/ poster board — even if it has a design or writing on it, you can use it. Students will be covering the cover with a design.

If you’re using a box, you’ll need to cut it apart.

Upcycle school supplies to create a fun notebook or journal.

Start by cutting off the box top and bottom.  Cut open the right side and trim off the end.  The box will be in the shape of a book.

I use that as a guide for the paper.  Pull the amount of paper you want from the notebook and trim.  Make the pages a bit smaller than the size of the book.

Whatever size the cover is, use it as a guide for the pages inside.

Step 3: Decorate the cover

Upcycle school supplies to create a fun notebook or journal.

This is the fun part!

Your students can create a collage cover just by gluing on strips of paper, cut out items from magazines, random stickers, and old papers.

Alternatively, they can color a mandala or create an original design.

Once students have created the cover, have them include the inside cover.

Press the cover paper on top and smooth it out.  Since students tend to use a lot of glue for this project, you can set the covers under a few books to let them dry overnight. Just be sure you don’t stack wet, gluey covers on top of each other!

Upcycle school supplies to create a fun notebook or journal.

A fun cover option is for students to use mandalas. Students can make and color their own mandalas. This website has an easy-to-follow tutorial (you can use left over graph paper!

You can also find two ready-to-color mandalas in Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Step 4: Tips for opening

Upcycle school supplies to create a fun notebook or journal.

In order for your upcycled notebook to open easily, you’ll want a crease in the front cover about a half inch from the folded edge.  I used a ruler to help with this.  Fold the crease back and forth several times so it opens and closes easily.

Step 5: Add paper

Create a fun upcycle project.

Put the paper inside your new cover.  

The paper may already have holes in it, but I punched new holes through everything. You will want to use a heavy-duty three-hole punch (I love this one) for this job!

Step 6: Bind it

Secure the notebook with brads, a rubber band and paperclip, or small sewn buttons (smaller than the width of the crease).  

Your upcycled notebook is ready to use!

Students may want to place notebooks under a few books one more time to help keep them flat.

Make some more!

Challenge students to create a notebook that they can use or even give as a gift.  Perfect for a reading log or summer reading journal.

Students can even trade notebooks or leave them for next-year’s class as a gift.

Mini notebooks are great to record to-do lists. Bigger notebooks are perfect for reading journals, writing projects, or resource notebooks.

Have fun creating this easy up-cycle project that will give old notebooks new life!

2 Comments on How to Create Upcycled Notebooks

  1. What a fantastic idea!! We have countless pages left in our spirals and composition books. This is going to be a great last days of school project for my class! I love how I can teach them about recycling while allowing them to create something they will be proud of! Thanks for the idea!!!

  2. Love this! You’ve made the meaningful task seem like a breeze. Such a well written, practical idea!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *