Lessons from the junk drawer: Possibilities for sustainability in art education


  • Jackie Stendel Mcgill


art education, environmental education, new materialism, environmental crisis, material culture


From planetary warming and natural disasters to pollution and community unrest, the sensorium of the climate crisis pervades our daily life. Art education has the potential to help us better understand the sensory reality of the climate crisis. However, the materials used in artistic creation are ecologically unsustainable and therefore may hinder learner’s connection to ecology. Through exploring the metaphor of the junk drawer, the author positions materials as potential teachers and, subsequently, as important parts of meaningful teaching and learning. The article explores the pedagogical impacts of different art materials while arguing that sustainable materials can lead to eco-consciousness for educators and students. 


Author Biography

Jackie Stendel, Mcgill

is an award-winning art educator and community organizer from Tkaronto/Toronto, currently living in Tiohtiá:ke/Montréal. They hold a BFA in Art Education from Concordia University and an MA from McGill University in Education and Society. Enchanted by the more-than-human world, Jackie investigates foraged and found objects as pedagogical agents and potential collaborators through material inquiry, art-creation, writing, and education. They have presented their research in several conferences such as the CSSE, EGSS, and the RBJSE, have taught countless workshops across Canada, shared their artworks in numerous group and solo shows, and have received numerous grants to undergo their research and art practice, such as the SSHRC and the PFF. Due to a deep passion for environmentalism and community, Jax founded C.R.O.W – a network for community members to trade materials destined for the landfill for future use. This group has now expanded into a community of 3K+ individuals who are brought together through frequent trading, exhibitions, and online workshops. Currently, Jax is developing Root-to-Branch, an organization that features arts-based environmental programs for youth and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities. jacqueline.stendel@mail.mcgill.ca   


Barad, Karen. (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.

Braidotti, R. (2019). Posthuman knowledge (Vol. 2). Cambridge: Polity Press

Davis, H. (2015). Life & death in the Anthropocene: A short history of plastic. Art in the anthropocene: Encounters among aesthetics, politics, environments and epistemologies, 347–358.

Finley, S. (2008). Arts-based research. Handbook of the arts in qualitative research, 71–81.

Gablik, S. (2002). Living the magical life: An oracular adventure. Grand Rapids, MI: Phanes Press.

Garber, E. (2019). Objects and new materialism: A journey across making and living with objects. Studies in Art Education, 60(1), 7–21.

Girak, S. s. girak@ecu. edu. a., Lummis, G. W. 1. g. lummis@ecu. edu. a., & Johnson, J. johnsonresearchperth@gmail. co. (2019). Creative reuse: The impact artmaking has onraising environmental consciousness. International Journal of Education through Art, 15(3), 369–385. https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.1386/eta_00009_1

Graham, M. A. (2007). Art, ecology and art education: Locating art education in a critical place-based pedagogy. Studies in Art Education, 48(4), 375–391.

Hicks, L. E., & King, R. J. H. (2007). Confronting Environmental Collapse: Visual Culture, Art Education, and Environmental Responsibility. Studies in Art Education, 48(4), 332–335. Retrieved from https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.1080/00393541.2007.11650111

Inwood, H. J. (2013). Cultivating Artistic Approaches to Environmental Learning: Exploring Eco-Art Education in Elementary Classrooms. International Electronic Journal of Environmental Education, 3(2), 129–145.

Kynigos, C., & Futschek, G. (2015). Re-Situating Constructionism. Constructivist Foundations, 10(3), 281–284. Retrieved from http://0- search.ebscohost.com.mercury.concordia.ca/login.aspx? direct=true&db=eue&AN=1 09067095&site=eds-live

Lande, M., & Jordan, S. (2014, October). Making it together, locally: A making community learning ecology in the Southwest USA. In 2014 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE) Proceedings (pp. 1–7). IEEE. Øivind Fuglerud, and Leon Wainwright, Berghahn Books, Incorporated, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/mcgill/detail.action?docID=1707793.

Rosiek, J. L., Snyder, J., & Pratt, S. L. (2020). The New Materialisms and Indigenous Theories of Non-Human Agency: Making the Case for Respectful Anti-Colonial Engagement. Qualitative Inquiry, 26(3–4), 331–346. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800419830135

Sang, A. N. H. (2010). Plastic bags and environmental pollution. Art Education, 63(6), 39–43.

Sensoy, Ö, & DiAngelo, R. J. (2017). Is everyone really equal?: An introduction to key concepts in social justice education. NY City, NY: Teachers College Press.

Solnit, R. (2014). Call climate change what it is: violence. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/07/climate-change-violence-occupy-earth

Timm-Bottos, Anna (2017) Seeing the Potential: A Canadian Creative Reuse Centre Case-Study. Masters thesis, Concordia University

Williamson, J. (2013). Collective action: environmentalism in contemporary art. Art Monthly Australia, (264),

Wallace-Wells, D. (2020). The uninhabitable earth: Life after warming. New York: Tim Duggan Books.




How to Cite

Stendel, J. (2022). Lessons from the junk drawer: Possibilities for sustainability in art education . McGill Journal of Education / Revue Des Sciences De l’éducation De McGill, 57(2). Retrieved from https://mje.mcgill.ca/article/view/10041



Notes from the Field