Proto Homes is proud to support T4T

Proto Homes is proud to support T4T

We recently took a trip to Gardena, California to visit the headquarters of Trash For Teaching (T4T) – a non-profit organization that uses excess waste from manufacturers as inexpensive materials for creative STEAM education. At their headquarters, we met and spoke with T4T’s Executive Director Leah Hanes to learn more about the organization and Proto Homes’ new role as a manufacturing donation partner.

Ms. Hanes described T4T’s background and their dualistic focus on “Minimizing Waste” and “Maximizing Education”. The premise of T4T started in 2004 when founders Steve and Kathy Stanton, owners of a local company that produces boxes for commercial candy manufacturers, began bringing their factory’s byproducts to their son’s preschool as materials for class projects. The Stantons observed the children’s creativity and resourcefulness in the reuse of materials that were originally destined for a California landfill. The couple began to think of other manufacturers throughout Los Angeles with similarly reusable waste, and from that concept T4T was conceived.

Now, over a decade later, the organization’s headquarters contains a maker space of long working tables constructed using recycled materials, gorgeous student artwork on display throughout the building, and a massive warehouse filled with tens of thousands of donated materials waiting for creative reuse. These materials are separated into hundreds of bright blue bins filled to the brim with packaged ‘Units’ for the organization’s Materials Warehouse Membership program. As Ms. Hanes explained, T4T has numerous programs, but their largest and most popular is the membership program comprised of Individual and Institutional Memberships.

T4T inspires students, educators, businesses and communities to rethink what others overlook.

Under the Individual Membership, families can come visit the warehouse and choose any materials (up to 100 Units annually) for creative projects. And on Sundays, families are able to participate in ‘Spontaneous Creations’ – an open studio where parents and children can create, experiment, and collaborate on uninstructed, child-directed projects that promote critical thinking, problem-solving, and of course imagination. The second part of the membership program is Institutional Memberships worth 1000 Units annually. This membership provides schools with an opportunity to stock their STEAM classes with unique, recycled materials that can be used for creative, educational projects.

In addition to the Materials Warehouse Membership, T4T offers:


  • Outreach Programs – where T4T brings a lesson plan and the inventive experience to schools or community programs
  • Field Trips – where schools or community programs can visit the warehouse’s maker space for a one-of-a-kind project event
  • STEAM Labs – where T4T builds (with the help of the students) a maker space in schools and trains teachers to feel equipped using the space
  • Professional Development – where T4T offers customized teacher training workshops that focus on becoming comfortable teaching with open-ended materials

Along with the organization’s program development, T4T has continued to expand its partnerships – T4T’s financial sponsors include Intel and Staples, their creative collaborators include NASA and Cal Tech, and their material donors include New Green Day – and now Proto Homes!

Both T4T and Proto Homes emphasize experimentation, creation, and challenging the traditional practices of our respective fields.

Proto Homes’ similar focus on environmental sustainability, creative design thinking, and fostering of innovation led to a natural partnership with Trash For Teaching. Our vision at Proto Homes is to rethink the house building process through our innovative approach to design and construction.  Trash For Teaching’s mission is to promote the benefits of uninstructed, child-directed STEAM education through the creative use of recycled materials. Both T4T and Proto Homes emphasize experimentation, creation, and challenging the traditional practices of our respective fields.

Proto Homes’ initial donations have primarily been scraps from our panels. Ms. Hanes showed us the amazing electric house projects students had constructed using our recycled panels – diorama houses that use electrical circuits! We were so impressed by the student work throughout the headquarters and inspired by the warehouse’s vast assortment of recycled materials. Now with a better understanding of the materials T4T uses and is in need of, we at Proto Homes intend to increase the quantity and variety of donated materials moving forward.

We are really excited about supporting this wonderful organization! With the US Department of Education estimating STEAM jobs will increase 14% from 2010 to 2020, we at Proto believe getting kids excited about science and technology is the first step to filling these high-tech jobs of the future. So we sincerely encourage you to explore Trash for Teaching’s website, and consider visiting them during their Warehouse Shopping Hours (Wednesdays 9-4 and Saturdays 9-12) or for Spontaneous Creations (Sundays 1:30-4:30) throughout the school year. Spread the word!

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