Bioplastic, Christmas, Nature Play, Winter

Bioplastic Christmas Tree Star

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Of all the things I’ve helped my children make from Bioplastic, this is probably my favorite. It will be a cherished item we enjoy adorning our Christmas tree with year after year.

Since our tree star is made of Bioplastic, we will be able to help it biodegrade if it ever breaks by melting it apart with boiling water. After it breaks down, the gelatinous water can be diluted and fed to the garden plants.

Bioplastic creation is fun for both adults and children. It can be tricky sometimes, but you will learn through your mishaps with a bit of experimentation and perseverance. If this is your first time working with Bioplastic, I recommend starting with an easier project like suncatchers or flowers before tackling a larger, defined shape like this tree star.

Materials

  • 1/4 cup powdered gelatin (1 part powdered gelatin to 4 parts boiling water)
  • 1 cup boiling water (1 part powdered gelatin to 4 parts boiling water)*
  • Turmeric
  • Bio glitter, normal glitter (note that you won’t be able to completely decompose your tree star if you use plastic based glitter) or Autumn Leaf Nature Confetti.
  • Sticks
  • A shallow tray that will fit the size of star you want for your tree

*If you live in a humid climate, use a 3:1 water to gelatin ratio instead to speed drying.

Directions

1.) Help your little artists arrange the sticks into the shape of a star.

2.) Add your powdered gelatin to boiling water and mix well.

3.) Pour your mixture into the tray so there is a thin layer covering the entirety of the interior of the star.

4.) Let your little artists go wild with the sprinkling of turmeric and glitter!

5.) Bring your creation to a cool, dry place to set. We have a dehumidifier running in our art studio to help aid the drying process.

6.) After a few hours, your Bioplastic will feel like edible gelatin. At this point, use a knife to cut away the Bioplastic around your star, leaving only the Bioplastic star. You can have fun cutting these scraps, and let them set separately. We made our scraps into ornaments.

7.) Setting times will vary based on humidity levels, temperature and thickness. Whenever the structural integrity of your star allows, you can (gently!!) peel it away from the surface of the tray to flip it upside down and let the underside dry as well. It will likely be ready for this on the following day.

Watch out: turmeric will stain anything and everything it touches!

Setting your Bioplastic is a race against mold formation. Thin layers set the quickest, but it can be tricky to hold to a thin layer in larger structures like this star. Once your Bioplastic completely hardens it will not be able to grow mold, but you’ll have to help it set as quickly as possible to avoid this.

See the little mold spot that started to form on the underside of our tree star? luckily it didn’t get the chance to spread and it is not visible from the front of our star.

Setting up a fan to blow on your creations can help the process move along.

8.) Once your tree star is set, it will be hard, just like plastic!

Bioplastic often warps while it sets. You can experiment with preventing this by weighing it down while it sets, but this will lengthen the setting process and mold could set in. I prefer to embrace the process and imperfections of the material with my little artists. The “blemishes” make each Bioplastic creation unique and exciting.

I learned everything I know about Bioplastic through experimentation AND from the incredible STEM communicator, @muddly_puddly on Instagram. Find her account and watch her highlights if you are curious to learn more about Bioplastic and all sorts of nature magic at the intersection of Science and Art.

Careful: Bioplastic creations are addicting! Peruse our other Bioplastic projects if you need more inspiration.

Happy creating and happy holidays!

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