Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Here we are nearing the end of September in San Diego and we are still chugging along with distance learning. I have a small pod of first graders in my backyard two mornings a week and today was warm. While I was sitting there, listening in to their last zoom of the day one boy complained about how hot it was. My mind immediately went back to when I was a child. In my elementary school and even high school we didn't have air conditioning, so when it was hot we folded fans. This gave me an idea. I grabbed a sheet of copy paper, accordion folded it, stapled the bottom, passed it over to the boy in our pod and watched the smile grow on his face when he realized what it was.
My pod of first graders have approximately three zooms each morning, and after the zooms we usually play learning games or do an art project. Today we made watercolor paper fans and it was soooo easy.
Materials: I set up the art table with a large sheet of thick paper for each child, watercolors, a cup of water, brushes, a paper towel and extra small pieces of watercolor paper for kids who wanted to paint more. I had a bucket of fresh water nearby for kids who wanted to dump their dirty water in the grass and get fresh water from the bucket. If they don't do this, their colors will get muddy.
I showed the kids how to use watercolors. Basic watercolor instructions: Wash your brush before dipping it into another color. Don't dig into the colors, just lightly dab your wet brush onto the paint. Get fresh water when your water gets too dirty. Dab the brush on the paper towel if it gets too drippy. Mix colors in the pallet cover. If you want a lighter color add more water.
I didn't give them any instruction on what to paint, just fill up your page with color. This was process art. Process art is when you let kids explore the process of art making, and they always love it.
Next I showed the kids how to do an accordion fold using a piece of copy paper. They all practiced a few times on sheets of copy paper. After their watercolor painting had finished drying I folded it for them. If kids are older you could let them do it themselves, but thick paper is harder to fold than copy paper, and you really want the folds to be straight and crisp.
After accordion folding the paper you can do a couple of different things. You could fold the paper in half to create a smaller, wider fan. Tape the middle together and put washi tape around the base to hold it together. Or keep your fan tall and skinny and wrap the bottom with washi tape. You could wrap it higher up for a longer handle, or just at the base to show more of the water color design.
I think these turned out beautiful! The project took about 60 minutes from beginning to end. The kids all had fun and stayed focused the entire time. If it's still hot where you live, try making a fan tomorrow, your kids will love it!
Below is another way to make one. Fold it in half after you accordion fold it.
Next turn it over and tape it together on the back.
Turn it over and it will look like this!
Go one step further if you would like and hot glue a popsicle stick onto the back.
Here is the finished fan!