Bridges conference submission #132


X-mas in July:
A STEAM Activity with Kirigami

Corinna Beuermann-Kulp

Grundschule Friedland

Elementary School Friedland

Schulstraße 4, 37133 Friedland, Germany

Nicklas Kulp

Graduate Student

KIT Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Fakultät für Informatik




Kirigami is the Japanese art of paper cutting.

Kirigami is a workshop in which curious persons

are invited to make a 3D christmas decoration

which can also be hidden in a flat pocket.

The pattern is provided in pre-cut paper shapes.

The geometric objects, assambled during the workshop,

have the properties of flexibility (with diagonally pressure)

but also 3D stability (with no pressure).

The shapes will be assembled to a Cartesian coordinate system,

which uses one or more numbers,

called coordinates, to uniquely determine

the position of a point or other geometric element

on a manifold such as Euclidean space.

The Kirigami 3D objects are mirror symmetrical,

which produce regularity.

Press the Kirigami objects diagonally - from North to South,

or from West to East, and you will have a flat object.

Comprehend maths with head, heart and hand.

The result is a seasonal decoration: Christmas in July!

You can use the Kirigami ship as a decoration in a

mathematically styled christmas tree.

Other seasonal decorations are a carousel,

a maple leaf and a heart.

The Kirigami maple leaf is also a nice souvenir from Canada.






The Kirigami project encourages the

discovery of the natural sciences.

“Lernen durch ausprobieren”,

as we say in Germany,

meaning “learning by playing”.

Subjects that can be experienced through multiple senses,

make it easier for students with learning disorders

to stay concentrated and helps them to keep up with the other kids.

Maybe their dyslexia keeps some of them

from writing down their experience,

but it does not mater, because,

they can now show it to you on a model.

It promotes the social competence of the class

by enabling everyone to contribute to the team effort.

STEAM pedagogy does not aim to teach

the basics of reading, writing or calculating.

Instead it shows the kids the greater picture of how art

and the sciences can work together.

Which has the added benefit of being more fun.

The slogan of the elementary school in Friedland

“Comprehend maths with head, heart and hand!”

resonates with the philosophy behind STEAM.

The Kirigami projects build a bridge

between Maths (coordinate system),

Material sciences (flexibility and stability)

and Art (because the result looks great!).






STEAM education shows the children

the bigger picture of how art and the sciences

can work together on themes

that the children actuell perceive as exciting.

A preparation to like later the STEM lessons.

In Germany, we use another word for STEM:


Mathematik, Informatik, Naturwissenschaften, Technik!

Mathematics, Computer Science, Natural Sciences, Engineering. Naturwissenschaften is the keyword to natural sciences

(physics, chemistry, biology).

But in Germany “Mint” is also a color: it is a light green.

And green is the color for hope.

And (pepper)mint gives you a fresh breath.

Green is also the color of the christmas tree...


The Kirigami workshop has been done

successfully with students and kindergarden kids

from Friedland and the surrounding area.

Later we participated an idea-contest,

the “Ideenfang” contest for the IdeenExpo 2015 in Hannover.

There we showed the steam activity:

“Christmas in July – the mathematical christmas tree”

and won the first price in July 2015.




Intended Outcome



We developed the idea for the Kirigami workshop

in the Friedland elementary school maths workshop.

The kids are easily engaged

and do not show any prejudices towards learning

- caused by the haptic experiences with the material.

The paper is much more robust,

once it has been worked into a Kirigami art piece.

We have proudly presented these on school events in the past.

In our school,

the 6 years old are given the opportunity

to assemble the 3D objects for theoretical understanding

or for simple pleasure.

The construction of the Kirigami objects is straightforward.

The result of the Kirigami workshop

is a decorational art piece

that the participants made from start to finish,

they just have to keep the pieces in order,

or the pattern will not develop.

This requires some attention of the students,

which is an important skill to have.

All students, regardless of their social background,

are given the opportunity to assemble the 3D objects

- teaching material that is not available,

but fit very well with the school's slogan

"Comprehend maths with head, heart and hand."

The resulting item is both stable and flexible,

depending on the direction of the applied pressure.

This is an interesting physical property that makes it understandable,

relatable and encourages students to pick it up and play around with it.

We do not consider the mathematical and physical theory

to be the main subject at the Friedland elementary school.

This is taught to the students who get so interested

they want to know more and need to be challenged or the older kids,

once they are in secondary school.
The especially gifted kids are given the following tasks:

Assemble the shapes in the right sequence and position.

You will need no glue!

The shapes will show you the Cartesian coordinate system,

which uses one or more numbers,

called coordinates,

to uniquely determine the position of a point

or other geometric object on a manifold such as Euclidean space.

Describe the physical properties of the object and try to explain them.
The coordinate system framework has parallel fillers.

As a result, the structure is flexible in the diagonal.

It can then be collapsed in a space-saving manner.

This gives rise to considerations of how this property

can be used to protect the environment.

The space-saving manner is a good property for a seasonal decoration.

The huge mountain of seasonal decoration no longer

has to be dragged to the attic.

Not anymore.

Now a small shoe box, or a file folder can hide everything away.

Paper is a renewable resource.

The material costs are low.

If the seasonal decorations are purchased in the Kirigami style,

CO2 is already saved during transportation to the consumer,

because the 3D decorations in the collapsed state

occupy only a small volume.
The interest in Kirigami objects can be developed further:

Kirigami items are always special handmade gifts

for dear people with environmental awareness.

The decoration is also very haptic,

sturdy and very well suited for curious kids.

Small LEDs are provided to illuminate the little carousel

as the “life candle” on a birthday table.

Comprehend maths with head, heart and hand.

Greifen und Begreifen, as we say in Germany.