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La joie du papier mâché

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Excellent example of wrapping the paper around the form and tucking it in

Today we are at the halfway point in the residency and it’s a perfect opportunity for students to let loose and get messy. The students are always encouraged to think freely regarding their character stories but the art making has been relatively precise. Working with papier-mâché (French for “chewed paper”) encourages students to enjoy the tactile process without worrying about specifics.  All the structural work of the faces have been fine tuned and now it’s time to enjoy the slippery sticky process of adding the “skin.”

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Darrell demonstrating proper technique

“Rip, dip, slip, wrap, smooth” we chanted to a beat. Students rip the brown paper bags, dip them into the wheat paste mixture, slip off the excess with their fingers, wrap it around their newspaper features, and smooth out the edges. “I feel like I’m doing face surgery,” one student quipped. We also overheard comments about how the brown paper “looked like real skin.”

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Making progress!

One big success of the project is watching the student groups become independent units. They naturally gravitate towards certain roles, discuss problem solving, and communicate, with increasingly less help from adults. For instance each group had someone who preferred to rip paper while the rest got their hands messy. I heard one student say “We need another paper bag” to their peer when supplies were getting low. Another student was overheard saying “This ear is wobbly, we need to tape it” before adding papier-mâché. Instances like this show us that they are gaining confidence in the process and also becoming more socially cohesive and depending on each other. This also makes their work time more efficient. They went from taped up newspaper to fully covered heads in less than an hour.

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The transformation is nearly complete

The therapeutic nature of having permission to play with “slime” was evident. Students dipped their hands in, rubbed the paste on their cheeks, and even covered their bare feet. As it dried they remarked how it cracked and gave them “old man skin.” They are scholars, but they are still children and play is essential to their emotional and educational development. As one student said with a smile, “This is fun isn’t it?”

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Really enjoying the “dip” and “slip” steps of the process