Children love Origami. Any teacher can see this when when students create paper airplanes, envelopes with little notes and any other objects using paper. Using origami to teach curricular content creates a fun and dynamic learning environment. From a neuroscientific perspective, this stimulating environment produces a greater number of neural connections across multiple regions of the brain thus enriching the learning process. We must remember that the brain itself works as a whole and through origami activities we create a situation that maximizes this interrelated functioning nature of the brain.

 

I personally use Origami in Arts classes with spanish speaking students in a bilingual school. I started using origami solely for its language opportunities, and have realised over the years that using origami in the classroom provides students with activities that develop a wide range of capacities. In this section, we will analyze performing origami through different leneses so as to gain perspective on what exactly can de exploited by teachers and what students can develop during the process.

 

Language

While doing origami in the classroom, students are subjected to constant language input. They find themselves in a situation where they must listen, and pay attention to the details provided by the teacher. Because the activity in itself is motivating for students, they listen with much greater attention than as if it were just another lecture. The amount of linguistic input during origami instruction is abundant. Teachers can weave in any vocabulary or content they wish, depending on the subject matter students are studying at any given moment.

 

Maths

The actions students perform while folding are directly related to mathematical concepts. Students must use concepts such as parralell, perpendicular, vertical, horizontal, diagonal, inside, front, back...and many more to complete each figure. As children are folding, they will observe these properties and the teacher can even highlight them as well as different geometric figures which can be seen in the figures. Once the figure is completed, students can contemplate the idea of volume, and 3 dimensional objects. Aside from all of this curricular content which is available for exploitation, there are numerous studies on the mathematical benefits of using origami in the classroom.

Science

The origami figures can be characterized through a Scientific lense as well. As I teach Science in english to spanish children, this is one of my focal points for using origami in the classroom. You will see on this page different classifications students make about the different animals and objects I use in the classroom. We analyse weather they are vertebrate or invertebrate, which group of animals they belong to, what covers their body, what they eat, where they live and really anything the spanish curriculum may demand of students at different ages.

 

Arts and Creativity

When the figures are completed, students are free to decorate it any way they like! This part draws on student's creativity, as they can color and paint their figure as they please, either following a realistic representation or creating something unique. After completeing the decoration, students will have a 3 dimensional object to play with. Using their imagination they are free to play with their origami figure in any way they please. I have been truely amazed at stories and games children invent with a simple jumping frog. Students will make babies and even entire families! I invite you as teachers to sit back and watch your students play with their origami figures one day, and enjoy children's marvelous capacity to create.

 

Fine-motor skills

Doing origami profoundly develpos students fine-motor skills. To complete an origami figure students are required to use their hands and finges in dexterous ways. They will have to hold the paper in many different positions and make quite small and complicated folds. When the time comes to decorate and write pertinent information on their figure, students will again be confronted with a situation where they must work within small spaces.

Spatial reasoning

While doing origami figures, students must draw on their capacity to locate and align folds. Some of the mathematical concepts mentioned above such as parralell and perpendicular are directly related to one's espacial reasoning. Students are constantly discriminating between left and right, front and back, inside and outside. The concept of symmetry is also present as many folds must be completes twice, giving students an opportunity to assure they are completing the figure properly.

 

Executive functions

This is perhaps the most significant benefit students gain from doing origami. One's executive control is directly linked to their behavior. Of the various executive functions active in our brain, I would like to emphasize about the working memory, inhibitory control and flexibility. 

While completing an origami figure, either through oral or visual instruction, students must operate with multiple bits of information at the same time. With a final objective in mind, all of the folding procedures depend on previous folds and students will learn to compare and use reference points within the paper being created as the figure is being completed. This process directly develops student's working memory, the executive funtion responsible for managing these different bits of information to carry out a process.

In terms of mental flexibility and problema solving, students will have to deal with numerous situations where they will have to adapt their strategies to complete the figure. This capacity is closely related to their inhibitory control as often times students will not be able to complete many folds very easily.

The fact that students will have to try and try again directly forces them to persevere in their work and overcome frustration. Certain origami figures are quite intricate and students will not complete them on their first try, nor even on their first few tries. This will test their patience and their ability to finish the activity inspite of their difficulties.