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Re: Papermaking for children


        I recently had the pleasure of demonstrating papermaking to my
seven-year-old sonís first grade art class. (We live in rural Pennsylvania
where dairy farms dominate the landscape. There is, however, a large
papermill in a nearby town.) My plan for the 40-minute class was to start
with some questions: Who uses paper? What is paper made from? Does anyone in
the class know someone who works at the papermill? And, what would we do if
we did not have paper? These questions and the responses were followed by a
brief history of writing materials, such as clay tablets, papyrus, vellum,
etc. We then discussed papermaking using rags and wood. Using some prepared
pulp and some flower petals, I demonstrated papermaking by hand.
        One of my desires in preparing for the class was that each child
would have the opportunity to form their own sheet of paper that they could
take home with them. How could we do that with 26 students in such a short
time period? I also wanted to use items and materials that were either
readily available in the home or could be purchased at a very low cost. After
considerable thought and experimentation, I devised the following.
        To prepare the pulp, I showed the students how, with adult
supervision, they could use scrap paper, water and a kitchen blender. I also
explained how flower petals and other plant materials could be added. For
their in-class paper we used some prepared pulp with flower petals. Each
student would then receive a small clear plastic "Dixie" cup with some paper
pulp. They would then place a piece of fiberglass window screen and a sponge
on top of the cup and turn it upside down. As the student wiggled the cup,
air would enter and the pulp would settle on the screen. (Note:  a small hole
in the cup temporarily covered with tape also works well.) After removing the
cup, the screen with the pulp was then laid on a bath towel. A piece of
Reemay, Pellon or Hollytex was laid on top. The towel was folded over and the
Reemay/pulp/screen pressed by hand. After pressing, the sandwich was removed
and placed between dry blotter paper. Since it was the end of the period, the
students lined up to go to their next class. A smile was on every face as
they showed me their piece of paper. We had done it! Twenty-six students had
made a small two-inch diameter sheet of paper -- all in about twenty minutes.
Everyone was happy.

May 1997

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