How do meaningful activities begin? What provides the foundation for a great project? Often an event sparks children's curiosity, and you're on your way to a world of discovery.

Perhaps children are painting paper sculptures when they notice that paint sticks differently to various surfaces. Or a parent comes to school to teach origami (the Japanese art of paper folding) and everyone becomes entranced with this new form of design. Or maybe your group gets involved in comparing illustrations in favorite picture books. Observations and excitement give rise to questions: Why does that happen? How do you do it?

Can We Make Pictures Like That?

Open-ended group-time activities can both inform and inspire. Are children interested? Do they want to learn more? What do their questions tell me? Keep these thoughts in mind as you try these beginnings of paper explorations.

Exploring Paper

Collect all kinds of paper to share with children. You might say: "I noticed I had many things made of paper at my house, so I brought some examples to show you. Here's a letter a friend sent me on beautiful paper. These are some writing tablets I use. Look at this paper towel-it's made from recycled paper. Does anyone know what that is?" Invite children to observe and compare all the samples. What's different about them? What is the same? Together, create an experience chart listing their findings. Then send everyone on a quick treasure hunt around the room to find other things made of paper. Examine these together and add them to your chart. Invite children to have a Paper Treasure Hunt at home and bring in a few different paper items. At another group time, ask children to share what they found and discuss: How many ways can paper be used? (to clean up messes, to print the news, to decorate walls, to print photographs, to make cups for juice, and so on) Your paper-sample collection could be the beginning of a classroom Paper Museum.

Investigating What You Can Do With Paper

At another group-time meeting, pass out a plain sheet of paper, a paper plate, or a paper bag to each child. Invite everyone to examine what they are holding and ask: What are some things you do with your item? Encourage children to think of as many interesting and odd possibilities as they can. The answers are endless-especially coming from the imaginations of children!

Wondering What We Want to Fine Out

As you assess what children already know, rake time to brainstorm what they want to find out-questions they'd like to explore. Write children's ideas on a chart so you Can refer to them as you continue to work with paper. (If this turns into an in-depth project, use your chart as a base. Go back to it and see if you're answering children's questions, add new discoveries and additional questions, and review your progress as part of a culmination activity.)