Productive Paper-Prosperous Paper

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Students will discover a different way to re-use paper.

Big Idea

How can changing paper help people?


5 minutes

I ring my chime to get the class’s attention and ask them to return to the carpet squares and ‘Show Five’. Once seated, I announce that we are about to begin the fourth Science lesson in our unit about paper. To engage the students, I often start the lesson a personal connection that provides quick engagement and sets a positive tone. I ask them to look at the necklace I was wearing, as well as the image picture from this lesson. “What is the material of this necklace? Share your guess with a partner.” Sharing with a partner provides the students with a emotionally safer place to guess before they make a Whole Group contribution. “Who has a guess what this necklace is made from?” Everyone raises a hand. “Glass?..Beads..Wood!”. “All of those are reasonable answers. That means they are possibleWould you be surprised to hear that the necklace is actually made of paper?”  Activities like this, as simple as they are, are valuable focusing tools. When this step is complete, we are ready to move on.

Whole Group Instruction

15 minutes

For this lesson, I introduce the book titled Paper Bag Princess. I’ve used this book for many lessons in other Language Arts lessons though haven’t applied it to Science before. I chose it for two reasons both the way it applies paper to an unconventional need based form and fact that it’s Girl Power all the way (never underestimate the effect that your enthusiasm about an important resource can add to the success of a lesson!). As I read, I stop to note the part where Elizabeth needed to make clothes out of paper. “Remember in one of our last lessons, we learned about ways we could change wood’s form to meet a need. Elizabeth did the same thing with….” “Paper bags!”  “Right. She showed the value of looking at something in a different way.” 

The second part of the instruction focuses on a way to use paper create beads from paper that we would have thrown away. Reusing materials is an important lesson we’ve cover throughout our Science units as we discuss ways we can protect the Earth’s resources to be good stewards. “Who can share one way we used wood in a different way?” “I made a triangle to keep the door open!” “RightYou did! Sometimes, re-using something is even better than recycling because it can serve a purpose many times instead of once. Who can tell me something they saw a way paper was re-used in the book?” “Clothes.” “Today, we’re going to look at paper in a whole different way as material you use to create an entirely different thing.”   

Individual Instruction

10 minutes


• Paper Collection (4-5 small pieces/student)

• String

• Tape or glue (optional but nice to make threading beads easier)

Prior to this lesson, I organized a collection of paper, focusing on samples with interesting textures and patterns. Wrappers and newspaper ads make great options.  The paper just needs to be thick enough to roll and thin enough to remain rolled. My goal is to provide the students with several different patterns of paper so they are free to be as creative as possible. I show them a YouTube clip to quickly illustrate the way to make a bead. The clip makes the technique is clear enough, so I ask a clarifying question, “What shape did the person in the video cut the paper?” “It was a long triangle.” “If we change the shape or size of the triangle, what would happen to the bead?” “It would look different too.” “So let’s use their example to create our own paper beads we can use for necklaces. How’s that sound?” “Yessssss!”  

I take a minute to explain the process they will follow: 

• First, select the paper you will use.  Encourage them to vary patterns for extra interest.

• Next, use a ruler to trace 3-5 triangles.  Cut them out.

• Then, apply some glue to the plain side of the triangle.

• After, start rolling the paper around the form (we used straws to make a big hole).

• Last, slide the bead off the form and set aside to dry.  

The bead making takes about ten minutes to make 3-5 beads, although I allow groups to go on if the activity is purposeful and moves their designs forward. As the activity winds down, I give them a one-minute warning with a hand-clap pattern. I ask the students to leave their beads to dry and return back to their carpet squares before we go to recess.

Wrap Up

5 minutes

After recess, I ask, “What are some of the ways that we re-used the paper?” “I made long, skinny beads for a necklace.” “Mine were rounder.” “So we found out that we could re-use material to make something useful and pretty. Who would like to put our beads on a string?” This step is short by design because the intent of the lesson is to give the students an opportunity to recognize the process of reuse by making the beads to make the concept more concrete. Once this step was complete, I again rang the chime and asked the students to stand up and return to their tables. Let the necklace making begin!