Dec 14, 2010


Today on Dr. Frank Buck's blog we can read about this idea of using Jumbo crayons for dry-erase boards. It wasn't only the pretty picture of beautifully colored crayons that drew me to the post, but also the topic, the matter, the core of it: basically to find ways to use crayons in your adult life without being a plastic artist or a kindergarden teacher. The idea came from yet another post in yet another blog, that takes it from yet another source. Truth to be told, I have never concieved this notion, has never entertained it, but it sounds rather interesting. (The links are found in each and every post, you need to just follow the link-sensitive brick road.)

The idea comes from the hassle many of us must endure when it comes to dry-erase boards (or white boards - I belive they are the same) and the markers made for it. Though we are all big now and we will hardly bring a permanent marker to a whiteboard - unless you are a kid or you are absolutely stupid or utterly stoned - several other problems arise more often than not with these markers. They are not well capped and dry out, bleed down the board (has happened to me. It looked like I killed the marker and it's greenish or black ink slid to the wall. Very unpretty), or run dry without any notice, and thus you must spend a few moments of public embarrassment trying out each of the available markers, or send the secretary for one so that you can do your scribbling. Ink gets on your hands, on your cuffs and when it's all done, you are left with a plastic tube to discard, addicng to the plastic heaps of junk littering the planet.

So, someone along the long line of links, has discovered that crayons can do the work, and can be erased. I guess they need a more energic rubbing than markers, but if they work, they give you all the benefits and none of the hassles. Unlike traditional chalk, if crayons fall they don't break, or at least no so easily. They don't smell, though it has been proven that many people still keep their childhood impulse to eat them, don't stain (not the new ones), aren't toxic, come in a freaking wide variety of colors, can get them on different sizes, which include the Jumbo size, which has much of the grip of a regular whiteboard marker, doesn't dry off on you, don't need to make sure to recap it, you can see when it's going to die on you, last much more than a marker, the waste is minimal and usually eco-friendly, and costs a fraction of the marker. A whole box of crayons cost less than a marker. So? Ready to give it a try?

It would certainly be something if offices started stocking up on crayons.

From my side, I rediscovered the crayons when I was in the University, as a student. Like all of my fellow classmates, I was hooked on highlighter markers, which were my most important studying tool. Add to it, I've always been fond to color coding, giving each color a different importance range, thus for when I would reread the given text, depending on the time I had, I could read only the highlighted part, and as resumed or detailed as I could. In the first years I went from highlighter to colored pilot pens, since highlighters meant a serious dent on my scarce student finances. Most of my money was spent in books, xeroxed copies, bus face and highlighters, and going at a 100 page-per-highlighter rate wasn't economically affordable. Going through a highlighter in 3 days wasn't something so strange, though some brands could last up to 1-2 months depending on the use. The colored pilots, while giving me a wider range of color, along with the occasional highlighter in there. These could last more than the highlighters, but one package wouldn't make it over 3 months.

This is how one day I came across crayons. I was looking for yet another refil of colored pilots, seeking for a cheaper brand, and lo there, there was a box of colored crayons, for a fraction - and I do mean a FRACTION - of the cost of the pilots. Durable, washable, erasable. I used them in the texts of four different careers for over three years. The same box. They were smooth and the color was soft enough not to hurt my eyes, as some neon highlighters do. I could mark over the text with no danger of rending it illegible. The tips never dragged the ink of the text, pulling after it dirty streaks on the rest of the text. They didn't bleed through the paper, nor the pressure was shown on the other side. Weren't sticky, and allowed me - again - a wide range of colors for my color-code thing. As a professor I kept using them, and at home I still used them here and there.

People often have preconceived ideas about crayons. They are kid-toys, they are messy, they don't cover just as good (which is why kids prefer often markers over crayons), they get dirty, etc. They are supposed to be playthings, but truth is that they are ageless tools, and terrific tool to it. Sure, their smell can pull people to bite a chunk off and munch on it, but if you think it rationally, due to cost, due to durability, due to their capability of leaving a minimal waste, which is eco-friendly, as they are often wrapped in a paper casing, why would you go for the smelly, big plastic waste, toxic solution?

If we are willing to push aside our unfounded ideas about crayons, step away from the phony snob attitute towards this humble, colored wax bar, could we think of offices more cost efficient, more eco-friendly, producing less waste. Could we think of solutions for our students, so that they can spend their money on something else other than highlighters. I'll give you a rought number to converto to whatever prices you have wherever you are. In 5 years (a regular University career), divided in 2 semesters, an average student could use from 80 to 200 highlight markers, or 1 to 2 boxes of 6 crayons, of the cheapest kind.

So, crayons or markers?

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