Paper Plate Education
Paper dials have been used for
centuries as tools to illustrate complex principles. In the 13th Century, Ramon
Llull of Majorca used several paper
instruments in his manuscript to support and to advocate his missionary arguments.
Llull designed his inventive dials--essentially paper machines--to illustrate religious truths
Moveable dials called volvelles appeared in printed text as early as 1476, when Johannes Müller von Königsberg, also known as Regiomontanus, included four paper devices with his astronomical calendars.
Image courtesy of University of Brighton, U.K.; used with permission.
Image courtesy of Chetham's Library, U.K.; used with permission.
(Source: A Student Virtual Exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/students/98to99/)
"On the evening of November 8, 1895, Wilhelm Roentgen found that, if the discharge tube is enclosed in a sealed, thick black carton to exclude all light, and if he worked in a dark room, a paper plate covered on one side with barium platinocyanide placed in the path of the rays became fluorescent even when it was as far as two metres from the discharge tube." Roentgen went on to discover X-rays, with the first image being of his wife's hand with a ring on it. (Okay, so it was a different kind of paper plate. Just having fun...)
(Source: Nobel e-Museum at http://www.nobel.se/physics/laureates/1901/rontgen-bio.html)
June Salzman writes that her "maternal grandfather, Frank (Pina) Chaikin, who came, originally, from Kiev, Russia, patented the first paper plates and egg cartons. Being a Socialist he 'sold'the rights to the Alfred Bleyer Company to manufacture them...in Long Island City, NY. I was born in 1931, and we ate from paper plates and paper soup bowls for years before other people. He eventually coated them for use as ashtrays." Since this is a non-smoking site, we'll move on.
Century and Recent Paper Devices
Another noteworthy application came from Buckminster Fuller, who
"used paper plates to demonstrate the pattern of the Vector
Equilibrium, a 3-dimensional diagram of spherical order. Fuller
would pass out paper plates to an audience and have them proportionally
fold and join four circles into a complex patterned sphere."
Since then, members of the Great Lakes Planetarium Association (GLPA) have created dozens of paper plate activities and have presented them to colleagues at GLPA state meetings and at the GLPA annual conference. Past issues of the Proceedings of the Annual GLPA Conference are available to GLPA members while supplies last.
As the quantity of activities has
grown, so has the realization that paper plate education is a useful
constructive technique for supporting lessons in science, math, history,
geography, social studies, art, music, and other disciplines.
Paper Plate Education is an effort to illustrate and to promote
haptic activities that can be experienced across a range of interests, at
varying degrees of complexity, and at a low priceall with the humble paper
Believing that the end users will
have varied abilities and resources, Paper Plate Education presents its activities
in multiple formats. In part to reach underserved populations that do not have ready access to computers and the
Internet, the GLPA
produced a how-toPaper Plate Astronomy video showing
activities from the collection. Paper Plate Education received a PLATO
grant from the Office of Space Science Center for Education and Outreach at
DePaul University to edit the video and to make 200 copies.
Distribution began at the joint SEPA-GLPA conference in June, 2001. Clips of individual activities from the video are also available as a DVD
and free streaming video.
Clips of individual activities from the video are also available as a DVD and free streaming video.
In 2001 Paper Plate Education received support from an IDEAS grant administered by the Space Telescope Science Institute for teacher workshops that incorporate paper plate activities and for support of this website. The Astronomy Foundations Through Art & Paper Plates (AFTAPP) project was a collaboration between participating scientists at the NASA Glenn Research Center, the Cleveland African American Museum, selected teachers of the Cleveland Public Schools, and Paper Plate Education. In studying the night sky, participants fused the lore of past civilizations with modern astronomical discoveries and then created their own artistic renderings of the respective constellations.
Taking the art of manipulating
paper plates to a new height to create multidimensional geometric forms is
Bradford Hansen-Smith (see www.wholemovement.com).
In his text, The Geometry of Wholemovement, Hansen-Smith discovers
personal truths about the circle while conjoining plates folded into the
five Platonic solids and the thirteen Archimedian semi-regular polyhedra.
The resulting forms are nothing less than exquisite. A sample of his
craft is temporarily available as a Microsoft Word document entitled Full
On another front, the ambitious Universal Laboratory (Unilab) project at Cal Tech proposed to resurrect many of the ingenious, historic paper devices of previous centuries:
archival base for this investigation is provided by the corpus of printed
books produced in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries
that made paper itself into a physical instrument. The "volvelle"
is a major example. Volvelles were rotating circular elements used to
produce paper versions of epicycle systems, or of astrolabes, on the page
itself...[ The Universal Laboratory project] will make these paper
instruments available by providing materials that a user can print out and
employ in constructing copies of the original devices. In this way the
system will restore to prominence a genre of representation that was once
central to theorizing across a range of disciplines, but which has now
vanished from view altogether."
In anticipation of the Transit of Venus on June 8, 2004, Paper Plate Education gathered related material (historical documents, images, activities, links, observing aids, quotes, diagrams, etc.) to produce a planetarium program and supporting resources. A 2003 Toyota TAPESTRY grant established a clearinghouse for transit of Venus resources on this website. The program, simply entitled Transit of Venus, is funded by Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. and is administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). The Project Director was Art Klinger of the Penn-Harris-Madison Planetarium in Mishawaka, Indiana. The information is available to multiple users, including teachers, planetarians, librarians, and other educators.
Clearinghouse material was obtained either free of copyright demands (public domain)
or it came with permission to use. All material at Paper Plate Education is accredited to its
proper owner. Please contact us if you find an
Paper Plate Education asserts that anything worth teaching ought be reducible to
a paper plate-- Paper Plate Reduction. While
welcoming and soliciting plate-based lesson plans from various fields of
study, we ask scientists in particular to put their research into laymens
terms and to develop paper plate activities that illustrate their respective pursuits.
In reducing various notions of interest, individuals have created over 88
engaging paper plate activities, including lessons in space
science, music theory, archeology, celestial navigation, African-American
history, geometry, and art.
To provide fluidity and flexibility to the dissemination effort, whereby the collection of activities can be augmented, enhanced and updated, elements of the visual aid are posted here on the Internet. This website, provided by DePaul University in Chicago through its broker/facilitator affiliation with the Office of Space Science, contains a collection of activities, references, and images, again depicting the construction and use of the paper plate devices.
Light pollution abatement has become a personal priority, so you can look forward to more effort put into preserving the night sky from encroaching light. Some preliminary Lighting Issues webpages are at www.nightwise.org and on this website at lights.htm. In the meantime, we look forward to your contributions to Paper Plate Education. Thank you in advance.
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Copyright ©2012 Chuck Bueter. All rights reserved.