Monday, February 09, 2009

Eco-friendly Valentine's Day: Paper Making Montessori Practical Life Activity

eco-friendly valentine's day NAMC montessori practical life activity making paper valentine
As Valentine’s Day approaches each year, I find myself eagerly anticipating the handmade Valentines cards. I enjoy seeing the creative artwork of my students. You can truly see how much hard work, effort, and time went into each card, making it that much more special than simply signing your name to a pre-printed, packaged card. I feel that it is a wonderful Montessori teaching moment as children realize the more of yourself you put into something, the more reward you will get out of it.

Each year…
  • Globally, about one billion Valentines are sent.
  • Valentine’s Day is the second largest card-sending holiday. (Christmas is first.)
  • More than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of candy are bought.
  • More fresh flowers, especially red roses, are bought on Valentine’s than on any other holiday.
I started thinking about the above statement and realized, even though we are making our own Valentines, maybe we still aren't doing enough to encourage good eco-stewardship. I started thinking “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. Random thoughts kept popping in my head: How many Valentine's cards end up in landfills each year? Do people really eat all that heart-shaped candy? How sad that fresh flowers are so short-lived. Boy, the paper recycling bin needs to be emptied. Then it dawned on me! Instead of recycling that paper, we could reuse it to make our own paper, and make our Valentines from that!

Here are some great tips for an eco-Friendly Valentine's Day!

Eco-friendly Valentine's Day: Montessori Practical Life Activity

Since I haven’t made my own paper in close to fifteen years, I started digging through some of my craft books. Sure enough, making paper isn't difficult, just messy. That aside, it’s a fun, hands-on activity that children can really get into. Besides that, there are so many wonderful Montessori lessons that can be taught through this experience. What about the Great Lesson on the Story of Writing? Remind students that the Ancient Egyptians made papyrus by pounding flat the inner part of the papyrus stem. The Ancient Chinese made the first paper that resembles what we use today. They mixed hemp, bark, and rags. Then they mashed it into a pulp, making sure to squeeze all the excess moisture out. It was then hung in the sun in sheets, to dry. Europeans, experiencing a great demand for paper with the invention of the printing press, used old rags, recycled clothing, and eventually, wood pulp.

Modern paper making is not much different from the techniques honed by the Ancient Chinese. The most important thing to remember is to leave enough time for the drying process, which can take three or more hours depending on the environment.

eco-friendly valentine's day NAMC montessori practical life activity making paper young girl
Many types of paper scraps can be used when making homemade paper. Be sure to use scrap paper which contains a minimum of writing and ink on it. These could tint the paper unevenly. Additionally, the use of newspaper will turn your paper a grayish tint.

Types of Paper Scraps to Use
  • Egg cartons.
  • Old cards (for heavier paper).
  • Paper bags.
  • Non-waxed boxes (pre-soak in warm water).
  • Office paper.
  • Tissue paper (for finer paper).
  • Construction paper.
  • Envelopes/junk mail.
  • ***Avoid ‘shiny’ paper (magazines).
Additional “Ingredients”
  • Lint from the dryer lint trap.
  • Liquid starch (a little added to the pulp mixture prevents ink from running while you’re writing on your handmade paper).
  • *Small flowers, leaves, glitter, threads (be sure to use these items sparingly as the paper will not hold together otherwise).
Hardware
  • A kitchen blender (I found my blender that I use exclusively for paper at a secondhand store for $5).
  • A plastic wash basin or bowl.
  • A simple (and inexpensive) frame can be made by placing screen or a nylon stocking between two embroidery hoops.
Making Paper Pulp
  • Tear the paper scraps into pieces about 1 inch (2 cm) square. (If you are using different kinds of scraps, it’s best to keep them separate for now.)
  • Fill a blender about 3/4 full with water. Take about a cupful of scraps and put them into the blender. Replace the lid and blend on medium-high for a few seconds. The water will start to look like very watery oatmeal. (*A very Montessori-idea would be to have the children ‘grind’ the paper and water in small batches with a mortar and pestle.)
  • When finished blending, you can add your special items (flowers, glitter, etc). Do not add these to the blender as they will get chopped up and ruin the blender.
  • Fill a wash basin about halfway with water. Add 3 blender loads of pulp. (The more pulp you add the thicker the finished paper will be.) Stir to make a homogeneous mixture. (Wait a minute. This sounds like it’s from the Upper Elementary Montessori Science Curriculum!)
  • Add 2 tablespoons of liquid starch for sizing.
  • Place the frame into the pulp and then level it out while it is still submerged. Gently wiggle it around until the pulp looks even. Slowly lift the frame up until it is above the level of the water, waiting for most of the water to drain off.
  • To dry, leave the pulp to dry directly on the frame. Wait until the paper is completely dried; then gently peel.
  • When you are finished making paper, collect the leftover pulp in a strainer and throw it out, or freeze it in a plastic bag for future use. Do not pour the pulp down the drain.
Your homemade paper can be used to make beautiful Valentine’s Day cards for friends and family that will be cherished for years to come. And your Montessori students will be able to say “I made it, all by myself!”

Valentine's Day can be a memorable celebration in your Montessori classroom. See our last year's blog: Valentine's Day in the Montessori Classroom: Why Should We Celebrate? .
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Monday, February 9, 2009.

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