Exploring Paper

By Karen Robinette, Head Teacher

The children in the West room afternoon program explored paper. The exploration began during the winter
quarter when one of the teachers brought in the book 600 Black Spots: A Pop-up Book for Children of All Ages, by David A. Carter. This artistic book leaps off the page with paper sculptures punctuated with paper dots. The children were fascinated by the book’s three-dimensional images and wanted to figure out how they, too, could make paper stand up. For several weeks, the children spent time nearly every day making their own three-dimensional projects using paper strips, dots and string (just like in the book).
As the interest in paper gained momen-tum, we explored different techniques. Teachers rolled paper into long, narrow tubes for children to use for large-scale, collaborative sculptures. It was interesting to see these projects evolve over the course of several days.
Around Valentine’s Day, another type of work with paper caught the children’s interest: cut outs. This took off when they were cutting hearts out of paper using the folding technique. The children enjoyed singing “I’m Going to Make a Paper Shape,” while watching a teacher cut one out in real life and then reveal it at the end of the song. The children continued to explore this paper cutting technique, which has inspired many to learn to use scissors.
With paper playing such an important role in the group’s activities, our classroom began generating much more paper waste than before. This led to some unexpected learning opportunities and activities. Teachers encouraged the children to reduce waste by putting paper scraps in the recycle bin. In addition, the children used some of the paper waste to make their own paper, which they later used for art projects. To make paper, the paper waste from the recycling bin was torn into small bits and soaked in water overnight. The following day, it was put through a blender until it took on a pulpy consistency. The pulp was poured over a framed screen, flattened with small rolling pins and left to dry. The children added dried pressed flowers and leaves to the paper for a decorative touch.
Making paper helped the children to make sense of the recycling process. Now they enjoy reusing the untouched paper plates from snack time in their self-designed art projects. They are beginning to understand that some items that might be typically thrown away can be reused instead.
The children have explored many other paper techniques, including paper mache, creating stationery and folding paper into airplanes, hats and simple origami shapes and using them in their play.
In a papier-mâché project, children glued paper strips around balloons until they were thickly covered. After the glue dried, they painted over the papier-mâché, using tempera paints. A teacher
cut the “balloon” shape in half, creating bowls, which were then used to store tissue paper scraps we used for collages, another type of paper craft.
One of the teachers in our classroom knows how to make stationery products. She brought in some of her beautiful materials such as paper, buttons and other embellishment for the children to use in making their own cards. It was very impressive to see how delicately the children handled the fine products and how their work reflected the beauty of these materials.
Some of the children’s parents and grandparents have also taken an interest in our paper topic, working with the children in the classroom to make Valentines, Mother’s Day cards, fancy paper crafts, paper snowflakes and origami shapes. The topic has been a fun way to involve families.
It is always fascinating to follow
the lead of children in exploring topics. As teachers, we had no inkling that the interest in paper would develop into a topic that spanned two academic quarters. The pop-up book, 600 Black Spots, sparked children’s interest and stimulated examination. Once children’s fascination began to grow, the skillful teachers provided opportunities for them to explore materials that interested them enough to inspire yet further investigation. With paper, the opportunities to explore seemed nearly endless.

The children in the West room afternoon program explored paper. The exploration began during the winter quarter when one of the teachers brought in the book 600 Black Spots: A Pop-up Book for Children of All Ages, by David A. Carter. This artistic book leaps off the page with paper sculptures punctuated with paper dots. The children were fascinated by the book’s three-dimensional images and wanted to figure out how they, too, could make paper stand up. For several weeks, the children spent time nearly every day making their own three-dimensional projects using paper strips, dots and string (just like in the book).

As the interest in paper gained momen-tum, we explored different techniques. Teachers rolled paper into long, narrow tubes for children to use for large-scale, collaborative sculptures. It was interesting to see these projects evolve over the course of several days.

Around Valentine’s Day, another type of work with paper caught the children’s interest: cut outs. This took off when they were cutting hearts out of paper using the folding technique. The children enjoyed singing “I’m Going to Make a Paper Shape,” while watching a teacher cut one out in real life and then reveal it at the end of the song. The children continued to explore this paper cutting technique, which has inspired many to learn to use scissors.

With paper playing such an important role in the group’s activities, our classroom began generating much more paper waste than before. This led to some unexpected learning opportunities and activities. Teachers encouraged the children to reduce waste by putting paper scraps in the recycle bin. In addition, the children used some of the paper waste to make their own paper, which they later used for art projects. To make paper, the paper waste from the recycling bin was torn into small bits and soaked in water overnight. The following day, it was put through a blender until it took on a pulpy consistency. The pulp was poured over a framed screen, flattened with small rolling pins and left to dry. The children added dried pressed flowers and leaves to the paper for a decorative touch.

Making paper helped the children to make sense of the recycling process. Now they enjoy reusing the untouched paper plates from snack time in their self-designed art projects. They are beginning to understand that some items that might be typically thrown away can be reused instead.

The children have explored many other paper techniques, including paper mache, creating stationery and folding paper into airplanes, hats and simple origami shapes and using them in their play.

In a papier-mâché project, children glued paper strips around balloons until they were thickly covered. After the glue dried, they painted over the papier-mâché, using tempera paints. A teacher cut the “balloon” shape in half, creating bowls, which were then used to store tissue paper scraps we used for collages, another type of paper craft.

One of the teachers in our classroom knows how to make stationery products. She brought in some of her beautiful materials such as paper, buttons and other embellishment for the children to use in making their own cards. It was very impressive to see how delicately the children handled the fine products and how their work reflected the beauty of these materials.

Some of the children’s parents and grandparents have also taken an interest in our paper topic, working with the children in the classroom to make Valentines, Mother’s Day cards, fancy paper crafts, paper snowflakes and origami shapes. The topic has been a fun way to involve families.

It is always fascinating to follow the lead of children in exploring topics. As teachers, we had no inkling that the interest in paper would develop into a topic that spanned two academic quarters. The pop-up book, 600 Black Spots, sparked children’s interest and stimulated examination. Once children’s fascination began to grow, the skillful teachers provided opportunities for them to explore materials that interested them enough to inspire yet further investigation. With paper, the opportunities to explore seemed nearly endless.