Origami Around the World
Origametria in Education
Models to Fold
In 1999, Miri volunteered to teach origami in the Palestinian refugee camps of Balata and Taibe. However, although her experiences were enjoyable and the children enjoyed greatly their contact with origami, it was clear to her that origami should be taught by teachers from the local community.
So, in 2000, she began an informal course in Ramallah on the West Bank, for students at the West Bank university of Ber Zeit, training trainee teachers to become teachers of origami. After 13 meetings, the onset of the Intefada in September 2000 ended the course. However, 3 of the students maintained their relations with Miri and went on to teach origami in 2 Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem, guided by the IOC.
In this way, origami entered the educational system of Palestinian schools and a core of professional Palestinian origami teachers was established.
WIth both Israeli and Palestinian origami teachers now trained, it was possible to consider making joint origami courses for the children of the 2 sides, taught equally by teachers from the 2 sides.
The ´Folding Together´ project could now begin.
Origami may seem an unlikely subject for a project to bring together Israeli and Palestinian children. However, there are good reasons to use it.
• Origami is from a culture (Japanese) that is neither Israeli (Jewish) nor Palestinian (Moslem). It is seen as culturally neutral, to which both sides can relate equally. We emphasise the Japanese origins of origami, and the aesthetic values of Japanese art and culture. This adds to the exotic appeal of origami to the children. It is important to emphasise that our deliberate positioning of origami as Japanese does not infer a lack of respect for the childrens´ own cultures -- we also emphasise the positive values of Israeli and Palestinian cultures in the meetings and observe the Holidays and customs of both sides. The children learn more about their own cultures by studying the cultures of other countries.
• Origami has a well-documented universal ´magic´ to which children of any age, class, culture or faith can instantly relate, so it is probable that all the participating children will enjoy to make origami.
• Unlike many activities such as playing a musical instrument, sport or drawing, origami does not require a special talent, so any child can be accepted into the project.
• Origami is a relatively inexpensive activity to run, requiring only paper and a few simple craft items. No special requirements are needed of a room, other than clean tables and chairs. It is an activity that is quick to set up, clean to run and quick to disassemble.
• Origami is relaxing, calming, colourful and fun. Many origami activities can be done jointly by children of the 2 sides working creatively and co-operatively together without language.
• Origami has many well-known educational benefits, such as helping an understanding of mathematics and geometry, increasing spatial awareness and fine motor control, helping concentration and helping children to better understand and interprete verbal and written instructions. These benefits are not commonly found in many other making activities.
• The children are proud of what they make. They enjoy showing their models to friends and family, thus extending the positive message of the project into many social environments beyond the project.
These reasons combine to make origami a powerful tool for reconciliation.