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Primary origami.

Origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, brings a whole new dimension to an art lesson. Origami is an addiction. Students love it and every year there is a handful of students who just can't get enough. There are some students who come and see the art teacher daily rather than waiting for their weekly lesson. They want to know what the next step is, the next form, how to link the pieces together.

Kindergartners get a taste of origami during their first school year. We fold the cup, the bird and the bunny. All forms have under ten folds and give the student a sense of things to come. The students create forms out of paper without cutting or using glue. They feel a sense of accomplishment and a sense of bewilderment at the same time. "How could I create a three-dimensional bird out of a flat sheet of paper?" It adds a new dimension to their process of thought.

The first grade builds on this kindergarten experience by building up to more complex forms. When they reach the second grade, students begin the year with a simple modular cube. The cube is formed with six simply-folded pieces of paper joined together. Students who master the cube, add an additional fold to each piece and create a twelve-piece form. The twelve-piece leads to a thirty-piece modular form and a form composed of six cubes joined together. The cube form is really the central focus of origami at the second grade level. From this simple form, all the other forms can be mastered by adding, deleting or changing a fold. There's a countless number of different cubes that can be created and each cube takes on a different look as a cube than as a complex modular form. The modular forms are easier to learn because the student needs only to learn one simple form, repeat it and link it together.

The paper plays an important part in the complexity of the form. Paper with one color on the front and another on the back can add variety to a form. Instead of seeing all the white sides, many different colors are visible adding to the complexity of the form. A simple form seems complicated to the eye.

The origami lesson format is a unique one. Directions need to be followed precisely. As the folding begins, students have their hands in their laps and their eyes on the teacher. The origami paper is in front of them on the table. The teacher demonstrates the fold; the class folds. If the students grasp the fold and are ready for the next step, again, they sit with their hands in their laps and their eyes on the teacher. If a student needs assistance, the student raises a hand. No one goes on until everyone is ready. The students help each other and sharing is encouraged. When everyone is comfortable with a technique, the next fold is shown. Students are not in competition with each other; there is a sense of camaraderie. When the piece is finished and the form fits together, there is a sense of accomplishment in the air. Excellent listening skills are being developed and behavior problems disappear. No one wants to miss the next fold.

Origami can be used in a very practical manner in the elementary art curriculum: ornaments for holidays, jewelry, flowers, cups to drink from and origami animals. The possibilities are endless.

Origami is a skill. Motor skills develop quickly with its introduction. Students who repeat the form on their own must memorize a sequence of folds and repeat them in order. Origami challenges the mind during its creation and in its final product.

Linda Yoffe leaches art at Tokeneke School in Darien, Connecticut.
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Author:Yoffe, Linda
Publication:School Arts
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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