Friday, April 9, 2010

Rachel's Program: Fun with Folding: Origami Programs for the ‘Tween Set

Want to hold craft programs at your library that will generate a lot of excitement?  Try starting an Origami club.

Figure 1:  Instructions to make this Kusudama ball can be found on the paper crafts blog Folding Trees.

The first step towards building an Origami Club at your library is for you to get comfortable doing Origami.  Maybe you’re already an expert folder, but if not, there are a lot of great ways to learn.  Books are a good start.  If you are looking at your library be sure to check both the children’s and adult collections to maximize your options. In terms of specific book recommendations, I love Kusudama Origami by Tomoko Fuse.  It’s out of print, but I know there are still a couple of copies floating around in my library system, so you may still be able to get your hands on it.  As with most crafts, the Internet is an excellent resource.  I’ve had a lot of success with The Origami Resource Center.  If you find it difficult to learn to fold new models using diagrams, try watching instructional videos online.  Sites like Origami Video.netHowcast or Youtube have lots to choose from.  Like anything on the web, the videos are of varying quality, so you may have to try a few before you find one that helps you learn to make something you’re really excited about. 

So now that you are an expert folder, you’re ready to hold your own Origami Program.  Below, I've detailed my tried and true method for doing Origami at your library.

Choosing Your Model
When most people think Origami, they think paper cranes, or maybe fighter jets or paper boats.   For library programs, I recommend instead doing modular origami projects.  Modular Origami is a form of paper folding where you use make several units (figure 1), and then you fit the units together into a larger model (figure 2).   The reason this works so well in a programming environment, is that folding the same unit over and over again gives the participants a chance to really master the folds.

Figure 2: The six units needed to make a modular origami cube

Figure 3:  The assembled cube 

When choosing which modular Origami project to do, mentally work through the steps imagining you are a clumsy fingered, fidgety ‘tween.  Did it seem too hard?  Were their folds even the adult in you had trouble with?  Then look for a different project.  It helps to be able to describe the steps in words, because some children are auditory learners. (If you aren’t sure what I mean by describing the folds in words, fold a paper crane, and try to imagine describing the process in words.  Tough, huh?)

The cool thing about having a “club” is that if the same kids tend to come to every meeting, the projects can build on each other, and get more complicated as the weeks go on.  At some libraries, I’ve called it a club, but had different participants every time, so I’ve had to keep the projects at a beginner level.  You’ll quickly see what is going to work for your library. 

Once you’ve chosen a model, practice, practice, practice.  You should be able to fold it with your eyes shut.

Origami programs basically sell themselves.  Make a sample of the project and tape it to a flier advertising the program, or even just put it on your desk.  Kids will start to ask you how to make it, and you can coyly tell them, “I can’t show you know, but if you want to sign up for the program….” Which brings me to the next point-

Take Registration
Origami programs have to be kept small because all the participants need to be able to see your hands while you fold the model. I recommend limiting the group size to no more than ten, unless there are two adults who know how to do the project. 

Taking registration is also helpful because you can ask kids for their ages ahead of time.   Unless the project is extremely basic, like a fortune teller (or, as it’s known in some circles, a cootie catcher) you should have a strict age requirement.  I usually say nine, but ten is probably even better if you think you can find an audience.

Prepping the Program
Origami Programs have a pretty painless prep.  Just make sure you have enough paper for everyone, (with spares for unfixable mistakes) and bring a finished model to show the kids at the start of the program so they can get excited.  Also bring enough units to make one more model, and leave it unassembled.  It’s also a good idea to pull all of your Origami books to bring into the program. I know we all always mean to have relevant books displays at our programs, but in practice there isn’t always time.  Origami Programs are easy to build displays for, because you can just hit the 736’s and pull all the books.

Lastly, it always pays to recruit one or two older teens to sit in and help during the program.  You can teach them to make the model ahead of time, but it isn’t necessary.

Running the Program
Give each participant, including the teen volunteers, a practice piece of paper.  You can use unpopular colors, or even scrap paper cut into squares.  Go through each step as the participants watch and follow along.  Between each step, have everyone hold theirs up, so you can check that they’ve done it correctly.  Fix any mistakes.  If there are folds that need to be done twice, one on each side, fix one, and have them fix the other.  If anyone’s practice unit is a little messy, (ok, they all will be) make sure to stress that in Origami, neatness counts.  Folds have to be crisp and exact, or the pieces won’t fit together.

Once the group has gone through one practice unit together, hand out the rest of the paper.  If the project requires five units, hand out five pieces to each kid.  If it requires six, give them six, etc.   Go through the second unit exactly how you did the first, making sure everyone is following along, and checking at each step.  Once everyone has folded one practice unit and one unit for their model, you can start letting the group move at their own pace.  Usually, the teens and one or two of the kids will “get it” at this point.  They might need to be reminded what the next step is, but they can do all the folds.  You should stop folding your own units, and move around the table, helping kids as problems arise.  Usually by the third or fourth unit, almost everyone will have it down, and you can stay by the students who are having the most trouble.  As kids start to finish, encourage them to help their neighbors.

Once everyone has all of their units folded, demonstrate assembling the model using the units you’ve prepared ahead of time.  Go slowly, and try to break it down into steps.  Be prepared- this is the hardest part, and you will probably end up assembling some, or all, of the participants models.  That is why it is so key to have it mastered before the program- you’ve got to be able to do it fast!  If you help the teens assemble their models first, they may be able to help you finish up the kids’.  As participants finish, you can give them each enough sheets to make another model to start working on.   Make sure to tell them they’ll probably have to finish it at home.  This is good way to work around the issue of people finishing at different rates.  Once everyone has a completed model and has enough paper to try again at home, you can send them on their way. 

Have fun, BE PATIENT and remember that the kids don’t care if their model looks perfect.  They will have a blast, and want to learn more.  Be prepared to answer the question of where they can buy origami paper in your neighborhood!

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