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Origami Challenge #7: Pedagogical Intention

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, many of my designs came from a need to achieve specific pedagogical goals. Teaching primarily with Taro’s Origami Method, which focuses on mastering the fundamental folds and bases rather than particular models, I needed models to introduce and practice those maneuvers. I might introduce a student to Blintz Base by teaching a simple Flower, but I’d lose their interest quickly if I insisted they practice by only folding more of those Flowers. Applying their skills to a variety of different models will keep them engaged, maintain the element of discovery, and reinforce the notion that origami is creatively expansive. The more possibilities students see using the folds and bases as they learn them, the sooner they’ll start experimenting with them on their own terms. 

If you’re teaching a maneuver, concept, or structure for the first time, you’ll want the example model to prominently feature whatever it is you’re working on. If it’s a Base, obviously you’re going to build the model around that base. But you probably don’t want the model to be much more complicated than the base itself or anything else they’ve learned so far. For example, if you’re teaching Kite Base you probably don’t want to use a model that requires a Double Rabbit-Ear Fold. I designed my Baby Penguin for teaching Kite Base/Kite Fold, which starts with the Kite Base (immediately, two big Kite Folds), and then proceeds to use mostly Kite Folds to make the point that “Kite Fold” doesn’t mean “Kite Base.” 

Similarly, if you’re teaching a new kind of Fold you don’t want the model to require more complex folds than the one you’re working on. If you’re teaching Squash Fold for the first time, you don’t want to have to simultaneously teach a Closed Sink Fold. It helps if the new Fold is prominent in the sequence. Fish Base is a great way to teach the Rabbit-Ear Fold because it immediately requires Rabbit-Ear Folding each half of the paper – nice big Rabbit-Ear Folds from an open sheet, and once you’ve done the first one, you immediately get to practice it with a second one. I also find repetition of a Fold helpful in a single model. In the Baby Penguin, the only other Folds aside from the Kite Folds are Valley/Mountain Folds, all with clear references from edges, creases, and intersections.

When I teach Double Rabbit-Ear (one of the trickiest Folds to teach, I’ve found), I now start with a Kite Base Swan variation (Thank you, Ben Friesen) that is basically a Kite Base folded in half, then you Double Rabbit-Ear the thin end to make the neck. From there, shape to taste for head and other features. The Base is simple, the target Fold is big, and there’s not much more to it. Once we’ve done the Swan, I teach a “simple” Ostrich model which is essentially a Bird Base with three Double Rabbit-Ears for the neck and legs. Here we get the repetition. This is also an opportunity to explore different ways of approaching the new Fold since you never know which one will click with the student. 

Prominence and repetition are also good touchstones for models that teach other concepts in origami. I came up with a Peacock that features a simple corrugation for the tail as a way to bridge the gap from representational origami to tessellation origami. There’s nothing extraordinary about using a corrugation pattern for a Peacock tail – Jun Maekawa’s Peacock in Genuine Origami and Satoshi Kamiya’s Lyrebird jump to mind. I just wanted a simpler version for teaching. It also features the Elias Stretch, which is another convenient maneuver to learn. Most of the folding time is spent on the corrugated tail. 

Robert J. Lang’s Origami Design Secrets, John Montroll’s Teach Yourself Origami, Paul Jackson’s The Complete Origami Course, and Jun Maekawa’s Genuine Origami all have great examples of using models that introduce and reinforce specific pedagogical goals.

This challenge also allows you to think like a teacher. How can I effectively communicate this new technique? It draws on skills you built in some of the other challenges, such as limiting Fold complexity and working with traditional Bases. There’s an element of humility in it as well. Models from this challenge may not be hyper-realistic or intricately detailed. They’re designed to be shared. They’re designed to ignite the spark of creativity while empowering a folder-in-training with new skills. You get to approach this challenge with a beginner mindset, and be a student all over again.

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