How can you take something flat and change it into something 3-D? Students are prompted with this question and offered the challenge of transformation. Paper sculpture has a strong mathematical connection and allows students to understand form through hands on exploration. By taking a flat paper and rolling it into a cylinder, students see a transformation of space take place and see the birth of a base, that wonderful chunk of matter that can stand on its own!
Motivation: I often begin this lesson by asking students if they have ever seen a 3-D film on the big screen. I then move onto a clarifying question and ask them to describe the difference between a 3-D and a regular film. Once we get to the idea that something 3D pops out, I ask them to show me how they think we can take flat paper and transform it into something that pops out, or is three-dimensional. I first demonstrate how to roll a cylinder. First place glue on the far edge then roll and tuck, hold still and stick. I also demonstrate how to fold a strip into accordion to create a zig-zag form, how to cut a spiral from a square that dangles in space. Students are sent to work independently to test these strategies as well as develop their own.
Lesson Development: Students can “shop” for 5 different shapes of paper. After rolling their cylinder base, smaller shapes can be transformed into 3D forms then glued to the base to add more dimension. The goal is to form a base that stands on its own then add to the base to make it “pop out” even more. Fringes are cut, cones are rolled. Space is transformed! After all their shapes are used, students can go shopping for more. Be sure to clarify how to roll a cylinder as you may find that some students tend to begin by folding the paper over creating a tear drop base. This is still 3-D so it does suffice. However, if your goal is to achieve a cylinder (because you wish to satisfy a math objective), students need to see and hear the proper way to roll a cylinder.
Reflection: Have students share their transformation strategies with the class. Ask them if they see similarities between the works of art created in the group. Critical Thinking can be exersized by asking students where they have seen these forms in nature and in and around town.
Materials: Cut paper strips, squares, full sheets varied colors or limited to your liking for dramatic effect.
Vocabulary: Transform, 3D, 2D, cylinder, cone, spiral, accordion, base.
Skill Level: Kindergarten through Second Grade