Flexagons · Paper Toy

Forest of Flexagons


I don’t often have the chance to make flexagons with a class. But recently, Mrs. Schroeder, who works with an artistic group of fifth graders, asked me to plan a project with these students that could showcase their creative energies while still requiring that they use research skills.

Mrs. Schroeder chose Adirondack trees as the object of research. Each student was assigned their own individual tree. They were then asked to research such things as the tree’s  habitat, uses of its wood, characteristics  (the look of the bark, shapes of the leaves, etc) and its latin name .

Making flexagons to house these research facts was my idea. Here’s my instructional  PDF for Flexagon Squared.

Flexagon about Easter White Pine

For the uninitiated, a Flexagon is a paper structure whose surfaces rotate in unexpected ways when the folds in the paper are flexed.

Flexagon flexing

There are many shapes and styles of flexagons. The ones pictured here are based on a square.

Flexagon about Shagbark hickory1

Ok, I know it doesn’t look  like a square, but imagine unfolding the lime green paper….Flexagon about Shagbark Hickory, flexing

…now, here it is, half-way unfolded….

Flexagon about Shagbark hickory, Flexed

…and all the way unfolded.  There are still surfaces on this one flexagon that remain unseen.

Flexagon showing White Ash Tree

The French teacher at this school saw this project and was tres impressed by the work of these energetic and talented students. In addition to the fine work done by the fifth graders,  I told her that the secret to the success of this project was Mrs. Schroeder. She kept the class on task, and raised the bar high for research, spelling, and presentation.  Mrs. S.  remained consistently positive with and respectful to the students while staying clear in her intentions that they produce. It was really great observing how responsive these young people were to meeting Mrs. Schroeder’s standards.

My part in this project mostly consisted of providing instruction on how to construct the flexagon, and providing colorful papers and compelling materials to support motivation and inspiration.

dotted Flexagon

I hope to put together a set of directions on how to make this structure.

Flexagon showing uses of wood

But for now, please enjoy just looking.

Flexagon about Red Maple Tree

Addendum: here’s my instructional  PDF for Flexagon Squared.