Materials and Preparation
For each fan, you need two Popsicle sticks, liquid school glue, a piece of clear tape and a 12-by-18 cream or white sheet of paper. For young children, it's preferable to have the paper already cut into a fan shape before beginning the activity. (Fold a piece of paper in half, draw half a fan or rainbow shape and cut it out, then use it as a template.) Older children can trace the template to create the fan shape on their own papers, or they can draw it freehand. You'll also need materials to decorate the fans. Watercolor paints make beautiful, authentic-looking designs, but crayons, colored pencils and markers can work equally well.
Designing and Decorating
Japanese fans traditionally include nature scenes. Cherry blossom trees make popular designs--as do other trees, branches, flowers, plants and birds. Including a layer of sheer gold or silver glitter paint on top of the design can enhance the fan's appearance. Be sure to let paint dry completely before attempting to assemble the fan.
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Assembling the Fan
To begin making the fan, create a narrow fold (approximately 2 cm, or the width of a Popsicle stick) from the edge of the paper. Having children measure this initial fold can be a great way to seamlessly incorporate math skills into the activity. Continue folding the paper back and forth. Be sure to make a strong crease in the paper with each fold: Show children how to use their fingers to press down along the edge of the folds to solidify them. When the entire paper has been folded, put a thin line of glue down one side of a Popsicle stick and glue it to one end of the paper. Repeat with another Popsicle stick on the other end of the paper. After the glue has dried, open the fan and tape the bottom of the two sticks together so that the fan will retain the desired shape.
When working with a group of children, it's important to model each step before allowing students to begin. Try the project for yourself ahead of time so you're comfortable with the process. This will also provide you with a finished product to show the children. For students younger than third grade, it may be preferable to complete this activity in small groups or supervised center rotations so that you can provide additional assistance. Children in third grade and higher should be able to watch your demonstration and then complete the process with minimal help.