The Day That Paper Mache Just Happened!

After our thoughtful discussion in class on Monday, I knew that some of our time at school yesterday would be spent creating our Hamilton Jurassic Park habitat. Since we just started our Work Plan routine this week, I thought it was important to continue with this new routine, so why not have students plan their habitat designs? They could think about objects to add and items to use to create them. After students did some classroom exploring and thinking of their own, they shared their ideas in small groups. It was then that ideas that I never even considered started to form.

I thought that students would consider the use of plasticine, paper, paint, and the natural items we collected outside, but they were even looking on our shelves and exploring the use of items such as cups: repurposed to act in different ways. 

The biggest surprise for me though was when the group that wanted to create the volcano came up with an idea: what about paper mache? When I came to school yesterday, I had no intention of this gluey, icky undertaking, but if we’re asking for student voices, I think there’s value in listening to them. The students totally took control here. They Googled, “paper mache with white glue,” and looked for a recipe. Students even found a short YouTube video with how to make the paste and how to paper mache the object. Then they selected containers to make the base of the volcano, worked together to tape them together securely, mixed the glue and water, and got started.

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In the past, I haven’t been able to see past the mess of paper mache. Yesterday, I saw,

  • decoding (reading) instructions. (Reading Expectation)
  • measuring using non-standard units (a small cup). (Math Expectation)
  • counting amounts. (Math Expectation)
  • creating texture (an element of design) with the use of their hands. (Visual Arts Expectation)
  • creating a structure using different materials. (Science Expectation)
  • collaborating and solving problems. (Learning Skills)

I don’t know what surprises today will bring, but sometimes, the learning from these surprises is the best learning of all. What has “just happened” in your class? What did the students learn as a result? How do we all get more comfortable with embracing these surprising learning opportunities? Every day, my students teach me a lot! Yesterday, they taught me that paper mache is a good thing. 🙂


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