R . M . H



Papier Mache': Bugs for Ages 6-7


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Student Project: Warrior Bug

Supplies and Materials


  • Wallpaper Paste

  • White School Glue

  • 1" Bristle Utility Brushes (Optional)

  • Paper cups, small buckets for glue

  • Wax Paper or Freezer Paper

  • Newspaper

  • Strips of cardboard or craft sticks

  • Colored Pipe Filters

  • White Paper Towels

  • Colored Tissue Paper

  • Google Eyes

  • Foam Construction Paper

  • Various Notions

  • Scrap Materials



Student Project

Student Project

Session One (one hour, including clean up time)

  1. Have students write their names on the freezer paper. An 18" piece will accommodate most projects. It is not too early to emphasize the necessity of working on the shiny side of the paper -- glue doesn't stick to this surface, normally.

  2. The Body: Have students crumple newspaper to make a large ball.  Place crumpled ball (depending on the desired size of the insect, made from one sheet or multiple sheets) into the center of another sheet and wrap together and secure with masking tape. 

  3. The Head:  In a similar fashion, shape a smaller ball for the head.

  4. The Legs: Take a strip of cardboard (1" x 3") or craft stick and tape 3 pipe cleaners across it --one at the top, one in the middle, and one on the bottom; these cleaners should be taped at their half way point and left flat with the table surface.

  5. Tape the head and body balls together. 

  6. By applying pressure, flatten one side of the form. Turn the bug over and tape the legs to the body (the side of the strip with the pipe cleaners should be turned to face into the body). 

    • Note:  If too much tape is used there will be little exposed newspaper to hold the glue (the glue and tape are not really compatible).  To remedy this problem, the body, or any other section/s) can be wrapped with a sheet of paper and secured with as little tape as necessary. This is also a solution for overly bumpy structures.

  7. Collect projects and store till next session. Keep the insect and the freezer paper together.

Student Project

This shows a working area (wax paper is a poor substitute for freezer paper), notice that the legs are still spread out and flat to the table surface.  Included in photo (top right) is a small ball with pipe cleaners that will become a bird. I use this small bird as a way to easily show how to do the various steps. This technique doesn't take long and is especially useful with the younger children -- easy projects first.


Session Two: (one hour)
  1. At least 30 minutes before class, mix the wallpaper paste/glue to a thick consistency, 1box for 15 to 20 students.  Adding a cup of white glue (PVA) will make a stronger bond.

  2. Return projects to students and give each student a cup of glue (for neatness, don't fill), a utility brush, and a section of newspaper.

  3. Show how to tear the newspaper into strips. Hold full sheet of paper as reading and tear downward. A rather clean, straight tear will result. Stress that perfection in tearing is not that crucial to the final project, but that the skill makes things easier.

  4. Once the newspaper is torn into long strips, have students tear into smaller sections -- about the length of their hands.

  5. Have students brush the entire insect, top and bottom, with the wallpaper paste. Mentioning how "slimy" the glue is before the students discover the fact on their own, defuses most reluctance to get it on their hands.

  6. There are several way to apply the glue and strips of paper.

    1. Brush on glue, apply strip, brush glue over strip. Glue. Strip. Glue.  Cross-Strip.  Emphasize that two pieces of paper cannot be stuck together without a layer of glue.  Crossing or weaving applications work best.  If one piece is laid vertical, then the next piece is laid horizontal.  Working from tips (ends) toward the center is best. (The neatest method)

      •  Note:  Putting on the gloves and socks: Start by covering the tips with newspaper and folding the remainder up to the wrists and ankles. Wrap the wrists and ankles with strips.

    2. Smear the glue on with the hands and then applying the strips. (The best for shaping fun forms, but dries slowly and is very messy.)

    3. Dip the strips in the glue and squeeze off excess glue by pulling strips between gently closed fingers.  (Most pliable paper, reflects the form underneath. Medium messy.)

  7. Encourage students to apply a complete coat and then another.  The more coats (layers) the stronger the insect.  In some cases I alternate newspaper and paper towels to show how many layers.

  8. For final layer, pass out white paper towels, tear into strips and apply just like newspaper.  This is a substitute for white gesso.  It gives the project a white surface, so the color tissue paper can cover without the newspaper showing.

  9. Collect the project: insect and freezer paper. Let dry two days if possible -- hair dryer can be used to speed up process.  Good ventilation is important.

  10. If time is left explain how artist share and improve on ideas.  No one should feel like someone else has taken their idea. Have students take turns talking about decorating their insects and what their insect might be doing.  Explain that some students will want to create realistic insects and others very fanciful.  I mention ideas like: tutus, high-heels, gloves, helmets, belts, hats, boots.  Also, race car drivers, doctors, astronauts, basketball players, and fashion models. After that the students suggest things like: skateboard beetle, butterfly doctor,     lighthouse keeper lightning bug, lady-bug nurse.  

Student Project

Session Three: (Half Hour)
  1. Pass out projects, glue and brushes.

  2. Tear color tissue paper sheets into quarters. (Smaller sheets result in less waste.)  Let students have three sheets of their choice color.  Encourage thinking about patterns and textures, and explain that light colored bodies will show darker patterns. More paper can be selected as needed.

  3. Have students tear tissue into strips and then apply like the newspaper strips. Glue. Strip. Glue. Cross-strip. Glue.

  4. Apply patterns in contrasting colors or tones of torn paper.

  5. Collect projects. Let dry for two days if possible.  If the previous session is dry, then one day is normally enough.

  6. If time is left, pass out drawing paper and markers and have students draw where their insects live (encouraging realism or fantasy) and try to get them to express a feeling of time (morning, noon, afternoon, night, winter, summer, fall, or spring.



Student Project

Student Project

Student Project

Session Four: (Half hour) + a lot of clean-up

(This session is the most variable -- some students take almost no time and others are able to work for hours. Helping each other and assigned clean-up activities can solve part of this problem.)

  1. Prepare room by setting up work stations.  Beads, buttons, google eyes in one area. Construction papers in another.  Pile of material scraps in another.  Pipe cleaners, craft sticks.  Yarns, strings, ribbons. Pom-poms, bric-a-brac, and found objects.

  2. Each students' table should have scissors and glues.

  3. Pass out projects. Have few students to talk about their plans, this will get the creative juices going.

  4. Tell them that they may get up and select items on their own and get out of the way.  This session is what it is all about.


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rmhershberger.com    Last Modified: 09/11/2008 13:59:21