Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Papier Mâché - Bugs

The children use papier mâché to create giant bugs. For ages 6 to 9. Plan 5 to 6 sessions.

  • Working with papier mâché
  • Building three-dimensional forms
  • Painting on a three-dimensional surface
papier mâché, three-dimensional, overlapping, free-standing

  • Newspapers
  • Non-toxic wheat paste (I use PlayBox Wheat Paste.)
  • Masking tape
  • Liquid tempera paints
  • Paint brushes
  • Water containers for rinsing brushes
  • Sponges for drying brushes
  • 20-gauge steel wire
  • Thin coated wire such as Twisteez, telephone wire, or 32-gauge cloth floral wire
  • Wire cutter
  • Non-flexible plastic drinking straws 
  • Stapler
  • Cheesecloth
  • White craft glue
  • Twisted coils of aluminum foil
  • Black permanent ink markers
  • Paper and pencils
  • Water-based polyurethane
  • Clay needle tool (for holes to attach antennae)
  • Watercolor markers (optional)
  • Pictures of bugs
    First Session
    • Cut opened newspaper sheets in half.
    • Set out the cut newspaper and tape.
    • Have available pictures of bugs
    How to Begin
    • Explain to the children that they will be making giant, three-dimensional bugs (viewable from all sides) with papier mâché, a process using paper and paste. When the paste-soaked paper dries, it becomes very hard and can then be painted. In this session, they will be forming the bugs’ bodies with wadded newspaper. In the next session, they will be applying the papier mâché.
    • While looking at the pictures of bugs, discuss the three main sections of their bodies–head, thorax, and abdomen. Point out that the compound eyes are located on the sides of the heads; two antennae protrude from the front of the head; six legs extend from the thorax; and some bugs have stingers. 
    • Demonstrate how to make the foundations for the bugs’ bodies by first pulling several strips of tape. Then squeeze tightly wadded newspaper into a shape for the head, holding it together with tape. Repeat this for the thorax and abdomen, connecting the three shapes securely with more tape. Explain that details such as wings, antennae, and legs will be added in another session.
    • Have the children make the foundations for the bugs' bodies.
    Second Session
    • Cover the work area with newspaper
    • Mix the wheat paste to a creamy consistency and put into bowls, planning one for every two children.
    • Tear newspaper into approximately 1- x 3-inch strips.
    • Set out wheat paste and newspaper strips.
    • Prepare space with a non-stick surface, such as waxed paper, for drying the bugs.
    How to Begin
    • Explain to the children that, in this session, they will be putting two to three coats of papier mâché on their bugs and then adding the eyes.
    • Demonstrate the papier mâché process by dipping strips of torn newspaper into the prepared paste. Pull the wet strips between two fingers to remove the excess paste. This step is important to avoid having the bugs become too wet. Lay dampened strips on the bug foundation, overlapping (laying each piece slightly over the previous one) and smoothing the edges as you cover the entire body with one layer. Warn the children that the first coat is the hardest and that the second and third coats are easier because the paste-soaked paper will stick to itself.
    • Eyes can be made by dipping a small piece of newspaper into the paste, wadding it into an eye shape, and attaching it to the sides of the heads.
    • Have the children cover the bugs with papier mâché and attach the eyes. Put each child’s name on a small piece of paper with permanent ink marker and paste it directly to the wet bug.
    Note: To keep the bugs from developing a flat side or sticking to the surface, balance them on twisted coils of aluminum foil to dry.

    Third Session
    • Cover the work area with newspaper.
    • To prepare the foundations for the bugs' legs, overlap two drinking straws about one inch and staple them together. Cut two pieces of wire the same length as each straw and slide them into the straws. Two attached straws will make two legs.

    • Set out the dried bugs, prepared straws, and tape.
    • Set out wheat paste and newspaper strips.
    How to Begin
    • Explain that, in this session, the children will be attaching legs to the bugs and covering them with papier mâché.
    • Show the children how to securely tape the stapled center of three straws to the thorax of the bug and then bend the legs into the desired positions, balancing the bug so it is free-standing or able to stand on its own.
    • Wrap the legs and the areas where they are connected to the bug with a layer of papier mâché, making sure to cover all of the tape. Remind the children to overlap and smooth the surface.
    Fourth/Fifth Session
    • Set out the dried bugs.
    • Set out tempera paints, brushes, water containers, and sponges.
    • Have available the pictures of bugs.
    How to Begin
    • In this session, the children will be painting a first layer of paint on their bugs. In the next session, they will be adding details.
    • While looking at the pictures, discuss the many colors and patterns on the bugs. Explain that the children may use the designs of a specific bug or create their own.
    • Show the children how to paint the rough edges of the dried papier mâché. Load the brush with paint and dab into the crevices. Smooth over the area so as not to leave puddles of paint that tend to chip off when dried.
    • Have the children paint the entire surface of their bugs with a first layer of paint.
    • Let the bugs dry before painting on the details in the next session.
    Note: Have an adult apply a coat of polyurethane to the dried bugs.

    Last Session
    • Cheesecloth dipped in glue will achieve the light, translucent effect of bug wings. It usually comes folded in four layers which will make stiff enough wings without losing transparency. Thin the white glue just enough to fully immerse the cheesecloth–the thicker the glue, the stronger the wings will be. Gently squeeze out extra glue and hang the cloth to dry over newspaper to catch the drips. When the cheesecloth dries, cut it into pieces that are large enough for two wings.
    • Set out the bugs, stiffened cheesecloth, paper, pencils, scissors, thin wire for the antennae, and glue.
    • Have available the clay needle tool and optional markers.
    How to Begin
    • In this session, the children will complete their bugs by attaching wings and antennae.
    • Cut the wire for the antennae and use the needle tool to poke holes in the papier mâché. Dip one end of each antenna into the glue and push it into the hole.
    • Have each child draw a template for a wing on paper; cut the template out; and trace it two times onto the stiffened cheesecloth. Cut out the wing shapes and attach them with white glue to the back of the thorax. Use a piece of masking tape to hold the wings in place until the glue dries.
    • The children who finish early, or do not need wings for their bugs, can use markers to draw the bugs, duplicating them as much as possible.
    • It was not until the children became excited about infesting the art room with giant papier mâché bugs that I realized the problem of making so many bug legs. Wire needed for bending the legs would be hard for small hands to cover with the paste-soaked newspaper and would result in unsafe points on the ends of the legs. Putting plastic drinking straws over the wire solved these problems, but we found that the straws need to be flattened where they are attached to the bugs so they won't roll around after the papier mâché dries. 
    • Newspapers that use vegetable inks are less messy and easier to work with.
    • Always tear the newspaper strips to be dipped into paste; the rough edges from tearing are much easier to smooth. Newspapers tear easily when ripped vertically.
    • Children with little experience working with papier mâché may need two sessions to cover the legs.
    • The six-year-old children made simpler bugs, such as the ants seen crawling across the shelf in the picture below.
    • The children's love for this project really makes the extra preparation worthwhile.

    • Looking at the bugs, discuss the variety of shapes and colors.
    • Are the bugs free-standing and viewable from all sides?
    • Review the process of working with papier mâché.
    What the children might say...
    • How much tape can I use?
    • I can’t get the papier mâché to stay on the wadded newspaper.
    • My bug is so wet it is starting to fall apart.
    What you might say...
    • Use only as much tape as you need to hold your pieces together. Too much tape makes it harder to apply the papier mâché.
    • Once the papier mâché wraps around the figure and meets itself on the other side, it will have something to stick to and will stay on.
    • Remember to pull the wet newspaper strips through your fingers to take off the extra paste. If your bug is too wet, try putting on a layer of dry newspaper to soak up the extra paste.
    Click here to view this lesson in a printer-friendly format.