Our Girl Scout troop chose two countries to study for World Thinking Day in February, one of them being Japan. We decided to make origami animals for the event. This activity will appeal to young art enthusiasts and makers. Since we were only spending about 2 hours total on origami, it was important to keep the lesson simple.
- Printouts of pattern
- Origami paper
- Scissors (for fish pattern)
Here are some tips for how to teach a stress-free origami lesson.
1. Choose an easy to understand and fold pattern
This fish pattern worked great because the instructions were written simply.
I chose a fish pattern I did because it was easy for me and easy for the girls (the median age in the group is 8 years old). It’s important to make sure that your students can fold the chosen shape without much difficulty because frustration will cause some kids to shut down completely.
Also, fish (especially Koi fish, also known as carp) have significance in Japanese culture. They symbolize love and friendship along with strength and resilience as carp live to be very old.
2. Choose the right paper
S&S Worldwide has a great selection of origami books and paper. Using rectangle construction paper cut into squares will make your origami object unnecessarily uneven. Less expensive paper is not always better. I loved the high quality large paper found here.
3. Have patience
Always have extra pattern printouts on hand and at least one additional adult helper.
To start the lesson, I taught the girls the five-second version of the history of origami and showed them a completed fish. Then we all slowly folded a fish from scratch and tried to keep pace with one another so that no one was going too quickly.
Everyone learns differently and has varying hand-eye coordination skills. Students may ask repeatedly: “which corner?” and “which direction?” and you should be ready with an answer. Your samples will help the students know whether or not their work is on the right track.
Playing traditional Japanese music in the background helped to set the mood during our lesson and kept everyone relaxed, which brings me to …
4. Enjoy the process!
Time passed by quickly during our first origami lesson because the girls were absorbed in making fish. They also loved picking the “perfect” patterned and colored papers to truly make their craft their own. I’ve shared some pictures of the final products.
Some Girl Scouts started an origami club at their AfterSchool program after their lesson. Now, that’s a good equipment-light activity—especially for a rainy day.
If you already have an origami club at your school or want to start one, please share some of your tips and questions for other teachers and crafters in the comments. Teachers, remember: making a geometry/STEM connection to origami is also possible.
By Corrie Kerr, Education World Editor