Friday, April 13, 2012

Beading Attributes: Pattern, Color, Shape, Size and...Straws!

My house is a laboratory.  My daughter is the lab rat er, cat.  I'm doing a lot of body-based rhythm and dance this summer with multiple groups of kids ages 6-12 (50-100 a week) but want to balance it out with other representations of pattern, shape and design.  I want whatever we do to have as much choice, challenge, beauty, self-expression and mathematical meaning as possible

I'm trying to figure out how to do all that on a budget.

One of my ideas is a beading project that will work well for both boys and girls in the younger and middle age groups.  I'm thinking about starting with both these books. 

I want the bead patterns to be as simple or complex as the kids require or desire.  I want there to be many possible right answers using a diverse inventory of attributes.  So far that means stiff string, pipe cleaners, spherical wooden beads with multiple colors and sizes, and...straws!!

Yes, I am making my own colorful straw beads.  They're the leftover parts of colorful bendy straws I cut to make this cube: 

And these.  


And this!

The older kids, incidentally, will be making at least the tetrahedron and the cube.  If they want to do more I plan to have enough materials on hand for that to happen.  There's a nice balance, a nice ecology, to this me thinks, what with the whole straw being used in different ways over the 6-12 age range.  Here's what I've done to make it work:

Make your first cut at the bottom of the bendy part.  The long part of the straw is about six inches, and perfect for constructing the Platonic solids using pipe cleaners as connectors.  With the remaining portion of the straw I cut the bendy part off (it's the part that expands -- in this case, I'm leaving it unexpanded, but the ridges make a nice texture.)  The top straight part, which is at the top, I've cut into half.  You could leave it longer, if you want, but I liked the shorter pieces better.  That's just me, though.

I experimented with some beautiful plastic pony beads as well but, in the end, there's only one attribute -- color.  The resulting design was really not interesting at all and I think even the youngest kid deserves more than one design element.  The wooden beads are wonderful with so many different sizes and colors and I'll keep my eye out for more sales so they can be a choice for everyone.  The straws are wonderful too because they're less than a penny per straw, offer a different/unusual bead shape, with multiple color choices AND a choice of texture! 

I'm happy with the options so far but will keep searching and experimenting.  What other kinds of (inexpensive but beautiful and varied) beads could I use?  I'd love your ideas!


  1. Fantastic ideas!! thank you so much for sharing.

    I am all for using what I have at home instead of buying a kit from a store. :)

  2. Love the bead ideas - especially the 3D structures! One thing that I've played a bit with is coating the beads in sand - it adds a new variable - texture.

  3. What fun! I love your 3 dimensional shape activity. I'm featuring it with one photo from your post at Every Star Is Different!


Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!


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