ITEEA The Elementary STEM Journal, Vol. 25, Issue 4
PublisherThe International Technology and Engineering Educators Association, Reston, VA
ReleasedMay 1, 2021
ISBNISSN 2692-5818
The Elementary STEM Journal, Volume 25, Issue 4 - May, 2021

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Table of Contents

Books to Briefs: Recycle the Rainbow/Recicla El Arcoiris

Books to Briefs

Rainbow Weaver cover-200.jpgRecycle the Rainbow/Recicla El Arcoiris

by Stacey Lorah and Katharine F. Rozman


Book Used:

Marshall, L. E. (2016). Rainbow weaver: Tejedora del arcoíris. Children's Book Press. [40 Pages; ISBN 978-0-89239-374-9]

Book image courtesy of

Read Alouds:

•      Spanish:

•      English:

Grade Level: Grade 2-3

book synopsis

Ixchel longs to follow the tradition of backstrap weaving, which has been done by generations of Mayan women in her family. With no extra thread to practice, Ixchel searches for materials to use for weaving. As she discovers that grass is too scratchy and wool is too thick, it seems Ixchel may never find the right material. Still, she remains determined. With creative innovation and community support, Ixchel creates beautiful fabric from recycled bags and helps the environment, too.

lesson synopsis

After reading Rainbow Weaver, the teacher presents reusable waste materials and relates them to Ixchel’s cloth. Students work in pairs to create wristbands from recyclable materials. Each group tests materials for their intended purpose while engaging in design thinking.

lesson goals

Students partake in the design process as they create wristbands from recycled materials. They will consider wearable attributes of different mediums, while learning environmental benefits of repurposing trash.

student learning objectives

Bracelet Examples 1-300.jpgStudents will be able to:

  1. Identify benefits of recycling.
  2. Choose ways materials can be reused or recycled.
  3. Measure circumference.
  4. Test materials to determine which is best for the intended purpose.
  5. Use design thinking to create a product from recyclables.
  6. Document the design thinking process with pictures/words.
  7. Share thinking with peers.


Common Core Math and ELA Standards (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2021):

English/Language Arts

•      CC.1.5.2.F

o      Add drawings or other visual displays to presentations when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

•      CC.1.5.3.A

o      Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.


•      C.C. 2.4.2.A.1

o      Measure and estimate lengths in standard units using appropriate tools.

•      CC.2.4.3.A.1

o      Solve problems involving measurement and estimation of temperature, liquid volume, mass or length.

Bracelet Examples 2-300-lg.jpgNext Generation Science Standards (NGSS, 2013):

•      2-PS1-2, Matter and Its Interactions

o      Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose. 

•      3-5-ETS1-1 Engineering Design

o      Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

Standards for Technological and Engineering Literacy (International Technology and Engineering Educators Association, 2020):

•      STEL-4D

o      Select ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

•      STEL-4G

o      Judge technologies to determine the best one to use to complete a given task or meet a need.

•      STEL-7G

o      Apply skills necessary for making in design.

•      STEL-7I

o      Apply the technology and engineering design process.

design brief

Ixchel was determined to make a cloth to help pay for school. She made several attempts using recycled materials before finding the perfect solution. Can you use recycled materials to make a wristband for you or a friend to wear?


Wrist Measure 4-300-med.jpgDesign and create a wristband using recycled materials.

Criteria and Constraints:

  • Must fit circumference of wrist without falling off.
  • Only use materials provided.
  • Wristbands must have three different colors.
  • Must be flexible and lightweight.


  •  Soft tape measure
  • Scissors
  • Fabric scraps
  • Straws
  • String
  • Buttons
  • Plastic bags
  • Food wrappers
  • Glue
  • Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Design journal

Wrist Measure Close-Up-300-med.jpgProcedure:

  1. Engage students in a discussion about trips to the supermarket. What do their families use to carry groceries? Some may respond with reusable bags, while others will mention plastic bags. Ask students what happens to the bags after groceries are unpacked. Do they throw them in the trash? Do they litter? Do they reuse them (to clean up after pet, pack lunch, etc.)?
  2. Explain the importance of proper waste disposal. We help the environment by finding new ways to use old things. Ask students if they ever used something old for a new purpose.
  3. Watch the Reading Rainbow: How Trash is Recycled video (see reference list) to discover how trash is recycled. Teachers can choose English or Spanish, based on dominant language spoken. When we recycle, we save resources and keep our Earth clean! 
  4. Read Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del Arcoiris, or use the link to the read-aloud.
  5. Like Ixchel, we don’t need fancy machines to recycle. We can use old items to create something new! Watch the Cartoon Network video, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, (see reference list) to inspire new inventions from trash. 
  6. In the book, Ixchel searched for materials in her neighborhood to reuse until she found the perfect material for her rainbow fabric. The students' job is to choose the best material to create a wristband for wearing or gifting.
  7. Show students the design brief and review criteria and constraints. Present reusable materials. You may wish to demonstrate how some items can be tied, strung together, woven, etc.
  8. Share and explain the design journals students will use to guide them in thinking like engineers.
  9. Before students begin building, identify the need to measure wrist size to ensure wristbands will fit. Model how to use a soft tape measure to find the distance around your wrist. Students can work as partners to measure their own wrists and record measurements.
  10. Guide students in documenting each aspect of the design process in their journals.
  11. As students work through designs, the teacher should ask questions promoting higher-level thinking, giving support where needed.
  12. Upon completion, present solutions to peers.
  13. Emphasize the impact of the engineering process in recycling. Reiterate how we reused trash to create something beautiful, like Ixchel! 


Aperauch, T. [Reading Rainbow]. (2017, May 10). How trash is recycled with Levar Burton [Video]. YouTube.

Cartoon Network. [Craig of the Creek]. (2020, April 22). Reduce, reuse, recycle [Video]. YouTube.

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2021). Read the standards.

International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA). (2020). Standards for technological and engineering literacy: The role of technology and engineering in STEM education.

Happy Learning Español. [Videos educativos para niños]. (2017, May 9). Reducir, reutilizar y reciclar para mejorar el mundo [Video]. Youtube.

Marshall, L. E. & Chavarri, E. (2016). Rainbow weaver: Tejedora del arcoíris. Children's Book Press.

NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next generation science standards: For states, by states. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Recycle the Rainbow Design Thinking Log - pg.1.jpgREV Recicla el arcoiris design log Spanish - pg.1.jpgNOTE: Recycle the Rainbow journals are availble in English and Spanish on the ITEEA website at: and

Stacey Lorah is a preschool STEM teacher at Thrive to Five Head Start in Lancaster County, PA. She has worked with preschool students for the past 16 years and is pursuing a Master’s degree at Millersville University. She can be contacted at

Katharine F. Rozman has taught both kindergarten and special education for the East Pennsboro Area School District in Enola, PA. She is pursuing her M.S. in Technology and Innovation with an emphasis on STEM education at Millersville University. She can be contacted at