Origami has always fascinated me, but two things about it always bothered me: The process was hard to demonstrate/utilize with 36 students at one time; and, when finished, everyone’s project basically looked the same.
Luckily, a foreign exchange student came to my rescue and showed me some tricks that made it easier to teach to a room full of students—without the instructor having a panic attack. Once I gained confidence, I decided to combine origami with drawing in such a way that the folded objects would become the “stars” of my students’ works of art.
People of all ages enjoy origami, but my students can’t get enough of it! The younger kids like to put on “plays” with the folded figures, which take on voices and personalities of their own, thus making them more individualized.
To save money, I buy wrapping paper on sale to use, instead of the “official” origami paper. I cut it into 6-inch squares for this project. so the students will have an easier time learning the basic folds. When they become more sophisticated with their folds, the squares are cut smaller.
Another interesting aspect is that these intricate folded figures involve geometrical shapes, which students can review as they fold, using the language of triangle, square, and so on.
We start the project by defining “origami,” learning a little bit about its history, and viewing examples of finished objects made through this folding process.
Each student is then given a square of thin white paper to practice the folds for each object. When they master folding their white squares to create an object they move on to the colored and patterned paper.
Students are asked to look at the origami they have created and imagine environments they would like to place them in. For example, one student folded a tent and then drew a wooded scene that resembled a campout he had been on as a young boy. As he drew his environment, he decided he’d like to add more tents, so he folded more tents for the scene. The origami tents were glued in place within the environment, giving it a 3-D effect.
Several students folded human characters, which generally demand more complicated folds. One folded a variety of human characters, giving them different clothing, hairstyles and heights. She also created more than one environment in which to put them. One of them, seen here, features two young ladies standing in a scene in which a large bird is featured, lending an authentic Oriental context.
As the kids learned the folds, they would teach them to other classes and the lesson blossomed. Students would stop by to pick up the “special” paper from me to fold and create their own origami.
By combining origami with backgrounds that students drew and colored, the origami became more personal, unique and creative, allowing the personality of each young artist to shine through.
With technology being the overpowering factor it is in our lives today, working with one’s hands in this simple way is sure to keep your students interested and engaged!
Middle-school students will …
• create an environment that includes the origami creations.
• appreciate the art of origami.
• manipulate paper to create objects.
• review geometric shapes and patterns.
• recognize different origami shapes that have been folded and discover the folds that have created them.
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Now retired, Karen Skophammer taught art in Iowa public schools for 31 years.
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