The Educational Experience of Paper House Construction
As a homeschool parent and a creative with a house full of moody creative children, I was always on the prowl for clever and creative diversions for my children to keep their minds and their imagination fired up. I wanted to share math and science in new ways that kept their attention and made them want to learn more. It was challenging but rewarding also. I used many methods, including sending them into the kitchen to make one-forth of a chocolate chip cookie recipe each for their own consumption. It made them think and work out mathematically one-forth of 2 ½ cups of flour. I gave them historical figures and literary figures to dress up like and perform for the day. One day my son was Harriet Tubman and one of my daughters was the famous painter Diego Velasquez. They each created and constructed different types of bridge models out of paper mache. But one of my favorite projects was a paper house. After all, we all have to live in a house of one type or another and how they are constructed is of importance. It is a mixture of the arts and the science of architecture.
For many years I have used the construction of these little paper houses as an educational tool in my children’s homeschool studies. After they all graduated and went off too college, I continued to use the projects for other homeschool and public school art projects. Everyone seemed to love them; even the one young man who didn’t feel art was of much use to him and often used art projects later for target practice. I had special classes with an assortment of projects including these paper houses for art store outreaches as well as some disability participant outreaches.
All 50 States
In these latter years I have created many more house projects. I created so many that I began naming them after the 50 states of the US. I did some research and found some typical house construction for each state, such as adobe houses for the southwest and farm houses for the Midwest and a Townhouse for New York and San Francisco, California. There are some extremely complicated houses, great for the more advanced students or those looking for a challenge, as well as simple houses for the younger fingers. I have several patterns that would be great for a homeschool with a variety of age ranges, as these patterns have many parts and can be left in the first stages for younger students, while the older ones work on the extra challenging parts of the houses.
Accommodating All Ages
It was my hope to be accommodating to homeschool families as well as public school teachers. I created the patterns to be downloaded with the full set of instructions and photos good to be printed on any printer using heavy cardstock paper. Once an educator has downloaded the pattern, they have my permission to print as many copies as they need for their classroom.
The project consists of coloring the houses first using colored pencil or markers. Watercolors don’t work well because the paper buckles under the water and doesn’t form a good sturdy house later, not to mention the fact that many printers use water-based ink so when water is added to the printed pattern the lines bleed. The patterns are already printed on the heavy paper so participants only had to follow the lines and use the colors they wanted.
Then the fold lines must be scored so that the heavy paper will fold easily and correctly. For younger students I often helped with this part just to keep the lines straight. The scoring is done with an inkless ballpoint pen or a knitting needle. I used to use the scissors opened up so one point was exposed but often students pressed down too hard and actually cut the paper instead of scoring. Scoring only makes a dent in the paper where the fold lines are. I find knitting needles are the best. They are not too sharp for youngsters and have just enough of a point for the dent needed in the paper.
Next the patterns are carefully cut out, folded and glued. The flaps are vital to the construction so they must not be cut off accidentally. I often find that happens, however, so I keep tape available to tape the missing flap back onto the pattern. Here you can see the construction of a box: four sides, top and bottom. The little houses come together box-like.
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Once the sides and floor are glued, it was time to add the roof. With each gluing you have to hold the flap in place for at least 30 seconds to be sure the white glue bonds the paper firmly. The same goes for the roof. Hold the roof in place for about 30 seconds to be sure it is glued properly. Some of the children liked cutting a slit in the top of the roof to use their houses later for coin banks. Clever idea! Others added holes to the roof to make the house into a pencil holder.
Many patterns have extra little attachments, like porches, dormer windows for the roof, chimneys, and even a rocking chair added to some porch designs. All these can be added or left off as you desire. It is one way to make each house personalized for the students who are all working on the same house.
To add some extra fun, you can cut out the windows and add tissue paper or plastic wrap to the back so the windows are made clear. Cut holes in the floor for twinkle lights or even LED tea lights. On some I painted lumpy acrylic paint on the roof for snow and added glitter to make a Christmas village. I even bought a little tiny train set to run through the “town” for my tabletop Christmas village design. Each of the children added their house creations to village and we enjoyed this set up for many years. Having done this project with some of my homeschool friends, I was told they put their children’s Christmas houses on the mantel every year also, and that it was a prominent Christmas display in their home.
Whether you make your houses into a village or just a one-time art project, these are very cute and desirable projects for the whole family and for all age levels and skill levels. Try one and see for yourself. Too see more go to Dancing Paintbrush Co on Etsy.
Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of this project idea. I would love to know your thoughts. Feedback is vital in the art world as many of us have blind-spots. I know I do. I look at a thing long enough I stop seeing the whole picture and only see the small details. If any pattern does not fit properly I would like to know that too. I have printed and created these myself but sometimes things aren’t exactly right and I want to know.