Paper Models in Science
Scientists use models to represent concepts or things that are too slow, too fast, too big, far away, too complicated or just too dangerous to observe in the real world. Models can take the form of an equation, picture, or an actual physical model. In my science classes I often use physical models to represent processes and as a way to develop students kinesthetic learning abilities. One of the cheapest ways to introduce models into a science class is through the use of paper craft. Paper craft and folding paper has a rich history. Origami can trace its origins back several centuries in Japan. Other forms of paper craft have origins in Korea and later China. There are several sources of paper models on the internet. Some site such as Fiddlers Green charge for most of their content, but do offer some free models. Some of the best sources I have found for free models are distributed by many of the printer manufacturers. They offer lots of paper craft ideas and templates that you can download and print for free.
Tools for paper modeling
- Printer- You don't need an expensive printer to print paper model templates out. A color inkjet will work just fine. If you are printing out many copies for your class a copy machine that takes heavier weight paper works well for simpler models.
- Paper- In general you need a heavier card stock to make models that are sturdy and will last. If you are making a boxy model such as a spectroscope, or fault model a heavier #110 paper will work great. If your model has a lot of curves a lighter weight #67 will work well.
- Scissors/cutting tools- Obviously if you are working with models in your class you need to be aware of safety and use appropriate scissors for your class. If you are working on a model yourself you want a good pair of sharp scissors. For your personal models a good X-acto knife or razor blade works for some of the smaller detailed cutting. I personally would not hand out X-acto knives or razors to my students to cut models with.
- Cutting Board- I use a piece of thin cardboard as a cutting surface. You can purchase a cutting mat from a craft or fabric store. Since students don't usually use razors or knives to cut with in my class they do not really need cutting boards.
- Scoring tool- I have found that an old mechanical pencil works perfect as a scoring tool. A knife or scissors are too sharp and can cut through your paper. The back of a pair of student scissors can also work as it is usually blunt.
- Ruler- A good wooden ruler works well to guide scoring the paper and to guide the actual folding. If you do not have wooden rulers a plastic one will work just that the raised numbers on most plastic rulers can affect the folds of your paper.
- Glue- Elmer's white glue or any brand of PVA glue works well. Too much will make the paper soggy and cause tearing. I prefer to dilute the glue with a little bit of water to make it spread more easily. I brush glue onto the spots I want with a small paintbrush.
- Miscellaneous tools- In addition to the above tools there are lots of miscellaneous tools that will help in your modeling endeavor. I use wood dowels, pencils, and other round objects to fold round pieces. Paper clips and small close pins work well to hold pieces together while drying. push pins can also help keep paper in place while glue is drying.
- Model of Three Faults- This site offers an easy template for modeling three basic fault types (normal, thrust, and strike-slip). Developed by the USGS.
- 7 paper models that describe faulting- This site contains instructions and templates for building seven different fault models. A higher level of skill is required to complete these models
- Paper models for Geology- Several template to describe Earth geologic processes.
- Landslide model- From the USGS, a two piece model of a landslide.
- Plate tectonic globe- Glue around a tennis ball and you have a really cool globe complete with tectonic plates.
- Earth's sea surface temperature- Model of the Earth provided by NASDA.
- Earth's water phases- Model of Earth provided by NASDA
- Natural Science Models- From Canon. Several models including volcanoes, Moon, Earth and Sun.
- Volcano Model- A model of a volcano from the USGS.
- Space Models- Space shuttle models, ISS, and more.
- More Space Models- A bunch more space models.
- Paper Spectroscope- Use an old CD and some heavy card stock to create your own paper spectroscope. These work great!
- Magnetosphere- A paper model of the magnetosphere.
- Paper airplanes- realistic paper designs, customizable with cool colors and designs.
- Even more paper airplanes- Japanese designed paper airplanes. Realistic flyers, fun to launch high in the sky.
- Rare animals of the World- Paper craft from Yamaha.
- Rare animals of Japan- More paper craft from Yamaha.
- Paper animals- Paper craft animals from Konica Minolta.
- Dinosaurs- From Canon's Creative Park.
- Insects- More from Canon's Creative Park.
- More animals- Even more from Canon's Creative Park. Check out the Coelacanth!
- Model of DNA- A no cutting required model of DNA. Template in color or black and white.
- Trilobite fossil- A model of a Trilobite by the USGS.