Started in 2023, WeReclaim! is a STEAM-based program for area elementary students that asks them to illustrate what a healthy, sustainable world should look like.

20-30 elementary students standing in front of art exhibit of collages, each in the shape of a hexagon, hanging on the wall in a honeycomb pattern.
20-30 elementary students standing in front of art exhibit of collages, each in the shape of a hexagon, hanging on the wall in a honeycomb pattern.

WeReclaim! began with a conversation between EC’s Director of Communications, Elizabeth Hughes, and a colleague, Beth Burkhauser, a former art teacher who now heads the Interdependence Hexagon Project. Started in 2006, the international Hexagon Project uses the visual arts to promote interdependence and global citizenship; the hexagon – like the cells within a honeycomb – symbolizing interconnectedness. The 2023 theme, Burkhauser explained, was environmental justice. Hughes recognized how it and EC’s work clearly aligned.

While most of EC’s efforts involve mine land reclamation, community outreach has always been part of our work. Often, during our interactions, we find students (and adults!) unaware of the region’s industrial past and the enduring environmental damages it wrought. EC was founded with the belief that local stakeholders should have a say in what happens to local lands. But to analyze problems and move forward with solutions, there must be knowledge. WeReclaim! seeks to start the conversation and, importantly, do so with the younger members of the community. Ultimately, they will be the stewards of the land.

Elizabeth reached out to the SHINE Program, an afterschool program operating in six school districts in Luzerne County. SHINE was highly receptive to partnering on this new endeavor, and through discussion, WeReclaim! was fleshed out. Each program cohort participates in five hands-on, STEAM-based lessons, which integrate science and the arts. Topics include local ecosystems, local mining history, and reclamation and land use planning. The lessons also reinforce the Hexagon Project’s emphasis on interconnection, as all these elements have intertwined to create the story of the region. Based on that learning, each student then produces a mixed-media collage artwork depicting what they would like to see in their community and/or for a better earth. An image of each child is part of the creation, identifying it as their vision. On display, their interconnected pieces will “reclaim” a vision for well-being in the community.

Like to see some of the student artworks up close? Head on over to Artsonia here to check them out. You can also see all the projects submitted for the 2023 Hexagon Project here.

We’re happy to share our lesson plans with you. Although our focus is on historical mining in northeastern Pennsylvania, ecosystems and industry in your region could easily be substituted. Each lesson, with supporting resources and references, is available as a pdf below. Interested in participating in the Interdepdence Hexagon Project? Visit their website by clicking here. Other questions? Send an email to the program director, Elizabeth W. Hughes, EdD.

Instructor and elementary students sitting at table, arranging paper plates with animal drawings to show relationships.
Two elementary school girls sitting at table using fingers to sort through container of birdseed to find buried colored beads.
Group of elementary students standing around large map on table with colorful squares with icons of buildings placed on top of it.
Two girls sitting at table covered with newspaper, each using paint to cover surface of 4" hexagon-shaped canvas.
Four elementary students at table cutting out and pasting scraps of magazines onto hexagon-shaped canvas to make collage.

Lesson 1


Lesson 2

Local Industry

Lesson 3

Intersection of
Ecosystems & Industry

Lesson 4

Collage, Part 1

Lesson 5

Collage, Part 2