Origami, the art of folding paper to create objects or animals, is a Japanese tradition that is important in many celebrations. The true origin of origami is the subject of much speculation. Although the practice was the most extensive in Japan, there is evidence supporting a tradition of paper folding as an art form in China, Spain, Germany, and many other countries. Direct evidence is difficult to find as paper is very quick to decompose, so references in the published materials of the times have to be trusted.
Why do people fold paper into little animal shapes? For most, it is because it’s fun and it looks nice. But for others, it is a way to relax; a way to let the day’s tension melt away. More and more now, care providers and researchers have found that folding paper can help those with medical conditions. The most obvious benefit of origami is for those who have had surgery or injuries of the hands. Origami helps patients regain control over their hand movements and helps build muscles. Patients find doing their “hand exercise” through origami is more rewarding than traditional physical therapy methods.
Some therapists have found that origami helps those with low self esteem, anxiety, ADHD, autism, mental retardation, and other psychological conditions. People who have been diagnosed with depression have found that origami gives them hope. Similarly, those who have an addiction may find that origami gives them a focal point on which to apply their energies as seen in this article.
Origami is one avenue that provides both mental and physical stimulus with exercise. Origami helps develop hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and mental concentration. Use of the hands directly stimulates areas of the brain. Origami is used in various therapeutic settings, including art therapy and in stroke and injury rehabilitation.
Emotional satisfaction is a byproduct of our work as we watch a piece of paper transformed into a new creation. Many find the folding of paper, a form of relaxation. In addition, grandchildren are often fascinated when we share our skills and creations with them.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics in 2003, geometry was one area of weakness among American students. Origami has been found to strengthen an understanding of geometric concepts, formulas, and labels, making them come alive. By labeling an origami structure with length, width, and height, students will learn key terms and ways to describe a shape
Origami is an example of “schematic learning through repeatable actions”. To be successful, the student must watch closely and listen carefully to specific instructions and then carry them out with neatness and accuracy. Here is a case where a student’s success is imposed by the activity rather than the teacher. Like group singing, hand games, and dancing, the pleasure comes in recreating the result and sharing it with others. For many students, it engenders a patience that leads pride in one’s work, the ability to focus energy, and increased self-esteem.
Origami is well-suited to working with a classroom of 30 or more students. In a multi-age setting, paper-folding tends to eliminate the status associated with age differences; the younger children are often in a position to teach the older children, and it provides an activity that works well when teaming different grade levels. Many teachers report that children who do no “star” in other places, are often quick to learn origami and help their classmates master the steps.
Through the actual folding, children use their hands to follow a specific set of steps in sequence, producing a visible result that is at once clever and pleasing. The steps must be performed in a prescribed order to yield a successful outcome – an important lesson not only in math, but in life. Piaget, the renowned child development psychologist, held that “motor activity in the form of skilled movements is vital to the development of intuitive thought and the mental representation of space”.
Often in assignments, there is one set answer and one way to get there. Origami provides children an opportunity to solve something that isn’t prescribed and gives them a chance to make friends with failure (i.e. trial and error). In your class, show a shape and ask students to come up with a way to make it. They may get the solution from various approaches. Remember, there is no wrong answer.