The phrase “process over product” is often heard when discussing topics in Art education. Our recent exploration of paper chains has demonstrated this concept nicely. We started with group instruction on creating a chain of images. As students began to understand the concept, more choices were offered. Over the course of the last month we have indeed created some impressive end-products: chains of various forms ranging from simple organic shapes to intricate animals, large-scale cut mandalas, and miniature paper scenes.
When admiring these creative products, it can be easy to recognize the time and effort that was put into the process. However, some creations are not accurate depictions of the effort that went into them. To successfully create one of these chains, you need to be able to fold a length of paper so that all the folds are lined up. For some students, this first step took a few tries. After this step, the chosen image must be placed correctly on the paper. If you don’t leave part of both sides intact, your chain will fall apart. Children are so used to cutting a shape out of paper entirely, it was sometimes difficult to remember the new technique. The fine motor skills required for detailed cutting are not mastered at a certain age. While many first graders can snip curves and angles with ease, others struggle with these skills into the upper elementary grades. To facilitate working with this varying range of ability, a variety of scissors were provided. By trying more than one type of scissor offered, students came to realize the pointiest and largest scissors are not always the best tool for the project.
So, while paper chains may sound simple to some, they often reflect a lot more time and effort than can be seen at first glance.