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Making Paper: A Hook for Plant related Topics?



What is paper made of?







Let's Make Paper!


Paper Making;




Plants that Give Us Fibers:


Cellulose Struture

Cellulose Cross-linking detail




Discussion Questions:

Where is the origin of the mass/weight of wood?

  1. Soil
  2. Air
  3. Water
  4. Nutrients dissolved in water











What element is wood primarily made of?









The Carbon found in plants originates in:

  1. Soil
  2. Air
  3. Water
  4. Nutrients dissolved in water




Extentions on Photosynthesis: Floating leaf disc method of measuring photosynthesis

  • procedure 1 from
  • procedure 2 with quantification options f/
  • procedure 3 from Wisconson Fast Plants

Plant Growing set up




Diane OFee-Powers's picture


The papermaking project was fun & I do plan to use this as a science activity and also as part of a writing assignment. I can use it as an expository writing assignment or use the paper that we make to write our letters to the people who we choose to give our blue ribbons to. The blue ribbons are a part of our 8th grade service learning project. You can find out more about this project by googling Blue ribbon project or "who I am makes a difference."

I also plan to videotape my students with the Flip camera in a PSA describing this project. The plan is have the students lead the school in this project.


Deesha Lockett's picture

Making a video

This was such a fun project. When I first saw that we were going to make videos, I was quite concerned. My technology skills are very very limited. I had no idea of what I was going to do. However I discovered that I have some skills after all. I learned quite a bit. I found a lot of special features for my video by investigation. I am looking forward to making more videos with my class throughout the year.
Teresa Albers's picture


Making paper from grass was definitely time consuming and a probable allergen irritant. Much of the work will have to be done without the children present. For instance, most of the blending will have to be predone, for classroom management reasons, and then the children can participate in some blending and the blotting of the water. The grass pulp did not absorb water as readily as did the cotton so it was easier to blot. The pulp was a little easier to spread because it was denser and more cohesive. Be aware, when blending, more pulp is being made than it appears by sight or touch. The paper fell right off the screen after it was blotted!
Babtunde A Oronti's picture


One of my colleagues did the same activity with her students about two years ago using starch as one of the ingredients. The idea of doing the same activity with only the blended paper in water without starch is more convenient to me for economic reason. Anything a teacher can save on materials for an activity and achieve the same result is welcome to me.

In addition most of the materials we used are readily available to both the teacher and the students. As a result this is an activity that students can do with their parents or siblings at home thereby making it a good example of “parent involved” activity.

Today we are going to do the same activity using grass as the starting materials rather than blended paper. I can’t wait to see the outcome of this exercise. I'm going to be teaching Environmental Science come September and I perceive this will be a great exercise for the class. I can also incorporate this lesson into my Biology class where my students will study about cellulose and other macromolecules as introduction to Chemistry in Biology.



Teresa Albers's picture


This lesson on papermaking was perfect for my classroom. I teach that trees yield paper, but that is so abstract of a concept for children. The children accept that fact, but proof is worth so much more. Furthermore, for most aspects of daily living the children are very far removed from the actual source of objects and food. To them, everything comes from the store, end of story. How it got to the store and the possibility of an original source is a very hard concept to grasp.

There are very little opportunities to demonstrate point-of-origin. This lesson gives the chance to show the source, especially if the experiment with grass works. (I hope no one has an allergy to grass!) I would like to have a few more activities to show origin and product. Any ideas to demonstrate the process of source to usable product are now being accepted! Peanuts ground to peanut butter does not work, NO NUTS ALLOWED and a cow is too big for the classroom.

On a personal note, I think I would enjoy making floral and herbal papers as a hobby. HOw can I get more time for such fun endeavors? Do they call it retirement?  I have a much deeper respect and appreciation for the people years ago who had to make paper by hand to meet their needs, I am particularly thinking of the forefathers and the Declaration of Independence.  They probably had machines by then, but nevertheless I am sure it was quite a laborious process.


Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Paper making

The morning session was excellent because the paper making activity was easy and do able for me. I will like to introduce this activity in either a biology or an environmental science lesson. Even if we do not do the paper makinig activity to completion I can build a lesson around looking at the different fibers that make up paper. I also enjoyed the activity on the strength of the paper. I can make an activity just testing different paper strengths. I will use the You tube video idea on paper making as an introduction to the lesson. Maybe, some of the students will make some paper at home! Excellent job Will!
Ayotola Oronti's picture

Papermaking in class

        The details of making paper were not as complex and complicated as I had imagined. I never knew it was that possible to make paper in the classroom. The materials are not out of reach and the directions were clearly stated on the hand-outs by Will.

       What is coming to my mind now is that this will be an inquiry activity that will be multi-disciplinary. I can get my students to start the way Will started by asking a history question. I am particularly wondering how someone actually thought about or stumbled on making paper from long ago. I believe my students will have the same question and will need to do a little research which will involve reading and writing. Measurements will take them into mathematics.

     I cannot wait to do this in my class.

Barbara Kauffman's picture

Our Papermaking Activity

I believe that Wil's Papermaking Activity would fit in very well with my elementary school students. Actually, teachers could create a unit that incorporates several subjects (such as science, reading, writing, social studies, and math) so that we'd be teaching across the curriculum.

Wil opened his presentation with inquiry when he posed the question, 'When and where (in the world) did papermaking originate?' I would similarly like to use Wil's strategy with my students, too. We often ask our students to research and write using the "5 W's & 1 H - Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How." Our students could make use of technology, for example, at school, home, or at the Wyoming Branch Library, to access information about the origins of papermaking.

The actual papermaking activity would be a fun learning experience for students, too. Most students enjoy getting up and moving around. In view of the large number of students in our classes, however, I believe that students would need to work in cooperative groups (5-6) rather than in pairs as we had. Modeling would, of course, be important. I liked the YouTube video that Wil had us view prior to our papermaking adventure.

Way to go, Wil !

bronstein's picture

Teaching w/o textbooks

As a follow up to the discussion we had the other day on teaching without using a text book, I thought some of you would be interested in Edutopia.  A recent post addresses this topic directly:

Paul Grobstein's picture

some more on classrooms and textbooks

From the mouths of students:


Susan Dorfman's picture

Parents love textbooks

I looked at the site for Edutopia recommended by Alan. The author made several good points that I will share with my science colleagues.

In the science curriculum, we first introduce a textbook in grade 7 science (biology). In grades 4, 5, and 6, all materials are supplied by the teachers, with the most formal being a series of manuals created by the Grade 6 teachers. Parents complain about the lack of textbooks prior to grade 7. These are the parents who complete homework and study with their children and do not trust the notes taken by the children in class. They want the security of the text even though we teach a hands-on program that to a large part is inquiry based.

Even in Grade 7, I exlain to parents on academic evening that the textbook is a resource and not the basis for the course. Each student maintains a science binder complete with the vocabulary lists from each unit, answers to questions posed by the teacher and based on assigned readings in the text and articles, internet searches, all handouts, and notes on interactive class discussions. The students are instructed how to organize the binders and is their most important study tool. I ask parents to allow their children to lead any study session with the them, and encourage the parents to allow their children to solve their own study problems and seek help in class the next day. Too often, the children become reliant on help at home and do not develop the skills necessary to participate and learn in class.

The author of the e-article makes the important point that teaching without a textbook requires good organization on the part of the teacher. In grades 4, 5, and 6, students need more "scaffolding" anyway and even more if the course does not employ a textbook.

Ayotola Oronti's picture

Parents and textbooks

          For some time I had problems with parents about using textbooks in the class. They always believe that everyone should have a text book that they can refer to in oreder to learn. Now we are trying to get our students to go higher by being able to find information from various sources and move away from memorization alone or textbook addiction.

    I started using binders and looseleaf papers but because of their age {4th grade} many of them were loosing papers, leaving homework undone and forgetting assignments. It was frustrating to me and the parents as well as the students. I then tried to switch to using composition notebooks. They would have their notes in that, have any  worksheets or papers stapled in the composition notebooks.

     This had its advantages:

  • Parents could see what their kids were doing and could relate to the notebooks as their science books. They felt a little secure with that.
  • I have a point of reference for them. I can get an assessment of each student at a glance even without a test. I'm able to see how they are coming along.
  • Each child can see his/her progress because they see how they started and how things are going. They also find the notebooks easier to keep and maintain than looseleaf papers.

  The other issue Susan mentioned is the fact that teachers need some organization time when they are staying away from the textbook addiction. From my experience when we had textbooks, all I did was go in the classroom with the students and tell them what page to work on. Now I do better. I prepare for the students and guide them through learning. Every teacher should get a chance to experience professional development that will encourage teaching without the textbook addition.


Susan Dorfman's picture

Let there be light so there can be FIBERS

It was fun!! I am going to contact the Middle School Art teachers to find out if they do paper making as part of the Grade 7 curriculum. I would like to coordinate to do the background discussion and microscopic observation of different fibers. If not, then I might incorporate the paper making and fiber observation as part of the MS level science course I am designing with our physics teacher for next summer. The course will be called the Physics of Biology. We will divide the class into two groups that will meet simultaneously, one group in physics and the other in biology for 90 minutes. The groups will switch for the last 90 minutes. Photosynthesis will be one of the topics, so this morning's paper/fiber activities will be perfect for our course. I can do the discussions of trees/wood/fiber and the microscopy. The physics teacher can discuss tensil strength with the fiber strength activity, and I will probably do the actual paper making in my classroom (I have more sinks).
bronstein's picture

Papermaking and photosynthesis

This morning's papermaking activity helped me to appreciate the automated machinery that we use today.  It's amazing how some simple machines can produce paper of uniform thickness and uniform quality continuously. In both places the machinery involves a belt that picks up the raw pulp as it moves through a slurry.  Then it moves over a vacuum, which sucks out most of the water.  I think the belt then moves through an oven, which provides the final drying.

Though I think that this activity might be useful in the earlier grades, most of my kids have been exposed to papermaking by the time I get them -- either at the FI or at the Ben Franklin House (or museum) in Society Hill.  At the FI kids can watch the process from pulp to dry paper and then try to make their own piece of paper to take home.  Using a vacuum belt and a heat lamp the process can be completed fairly quickly.  I think the museum papermaking provides no "hands-on."  But you can buy some of the product.

As for my classes, I think I can use the questions on what a tree is made of and even possibly the leaf disc photosynthesis lab.  It would give the kids a concrete experience of the theory that they have been hearing for so long.

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