Make Summer Camp: Origami

This entry is part of the continuing Make Summer Camp Series, about which I gave a progress report not too long ago.

Garden of origami
a garden of origami

I completed my goal.  I made every origami model in the training booklet, and a few more besides.  I made a number of models more than three times, and I feel that I learned about ten forms more permanently, or as permanently, as I know the traditional crane form.  I still have more paper with which to experiment, and I want to learn a few of the standard multi-paper polyhedra and box forms. But I feel that I’ve made excellent progress on this project overall. I was talking with Sean Hutchinson yesterday. He’s a teacher too, from Stamford, CT — very interested in starting up a Makers program at his school, and it sounds like he’s on the right track.  I’m very excited for him, because he’s going to have the chance to create a program from scratch, and it’s an amazing place to be when there are so many more resources available now than there were when I started. So much of what there was, was theory, rather than practice — and now the pendulum is swinging more toward practice than toward the theoretical. But the thing that we talked about most, and my own deepest insight from the conversation, is the importance of teaching kids to move from two dimensions to three.  This happens with working with tools, of course, but there’s the issue of expense in new programs.  Origami paper is cheap (copier paper is cheaper but then you have to teach kids to cut it to scale, and to stay interested with only white and a few pastels in their tool box). The underlying principle remains the same: teaching kids to think three-dimensionally is one of the key goals of my design program.  Whether they eventually design the layout of diodes and resistors on a circuit board and then fit them into a case, or arrange plumbing inside of walls (accounting for gravity and water flow alike), or figure out how to saw up plywood to build their own workshop, sooner or later a kid will be an adult who has to think 3-D. Origami appears to do that.Origami boxes

Then the question becomes, “now what?”  I mean, the containers are beautiful, but they’re fragile.  Will the kids understand what it is that they’ve learned, once they’ve built the boxes, folded the animals, made the tulip cup and the masu box with its lid, learned to master the square and hexagonal boxes? They’re not easy; I don’t feel that I’ve mastered them by any means.  And what I’ve done is not a technical education by any means: it’s an education in geometry and procedural.

I’m also starting to find processes/folds that make use of regular copier paper — that is, A4 paper from Europe or US Letter paper (it’s interesting that A4 paper conforms to a standard based on geometry, and US paper corresponds to a standard based on measurement… which means that folds for A4 paper sometimes work with US Letter paper, and sometimes they don’t…)

Letterhead boxThis one is particularly nice, though, and it works with US Letter even though it’s designed for A4.  I found it here, through Pinterest.  If your first fold is lengthwise, you get a long, skinny box.  If your first fold is width-wise, you get a deep, square box.  I like them both.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them, but I think it’s pretty cool.

I have an exercise which I think I’ll do with the MakerSpace/Design Lab kids, where I say, “you have to design a package label for a bottle that fits in this box.  How and where do you put the text?  How and where do you put the logo? How and where do you put the ingredient information?

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