July 25, 2010

Dodecahedron Lantern

 I was inspired by the hip momma over at Childhood Magic to try and make a dodecahedron lantern for our own school room nature stand.  We had a brief week of study on geometric solids a couple of months ago, and when I saw this post, it seemed like a great way to refresh our memory on what a geometric solid actually is.  And Childhood Magic Momma made it look easy enough!

I started out by letting the kids do a messy water color on a few pieces of paper.  I wanted enough for me to  make the lantern, and for them to make, as a group (usually meaning Hannah Jane makes while the boys play project coordinator), one small dodecahedron from a template that you can find here.  It crossed my mind to just blow up this template across two pieces of paper and save myself the trouble of all the cutting and folding of pentagons, but then I realized I wouldn't get the cool star effect from the overlaps.

While we waited for our art to dry, Hannah Jane asked what a dodecahedron was, and if she could have permission to google it herself.  She feels so sophisticated when she gets to google and I couldn't imagine anything inappropriate that could come up from a search on dodecahedrons (but I'm often surprised in that department) so I said yes.  We of course were directed straight to wikipedia and learned oh so much!  The kids marveled at the beauty  of the stellated dodecahedrons and asked why we couldn't make on of those instead of this now pitiful seeming pentagonal ones.  Momma lacks that kind of skill.  The definition of dodecahedron led us to a discussion on qualifications for a shape to be a polyhedron.  Don't ya just love it when that happens?

 By now our paper was dry.  On the white, unpainted side of one piece I printed a template for the kids' project and asked Hannah Jane to cut around the edges.

I used the pentagon template here, shrunken so that 6 shapes would fit when copy/pasted on to one power point slide (which prints to the scale of one sheet of paper).  Next time I would print this on the white side as well.  Well, okay, honestly, there won't be a next time because this was tricky and we won't attempt it until the kids are in high school and can make their own.  But it was totally worth doing once!

 Okay, so here's what it takes.  Cut out your twelve pentagons.  You need ten for the lantern if you want to leave it open at the top and bottom so you can sit it over a candle.  That leaves two.  One of those you'll fold in half on one of the flat edges to mark all of the others.  The twelfth will be on hand when you inevitable mess one up.  Ready?  If you look at the pentagon in the bottom right of the above photo, you can see little marks at the center of each side.  I used my folded pentagon to make those exact.  Once marked, you are going to fold a flap that spans from one of those marks to the one directly next to it, folding away from the painted side.  Once you do that for all 5 sides, you'll have the one on the top.

Now you're going to take five pentagons and open them up again, and then overlap them, on over the next by only a flap.  When laid flat they'll make an arch shape.  Glue the flaps on the neighboring pentagons and then take the arch and attach the ends.  That will give you the sort of cup shaped things pictured above.  Make 2 of these, using ten pentagons.  Now you're going to fit these two pieces together.  This part was tricky and more intuitive than instruction based.  Seriously, I have no advice on this part.  Just trust me, you'll figure it out with enough tinkering.  Once you glue those pieces together, you have your lantern!

On the childhood Magic site, someone complained in the comments section that the glue took too long to hold such a complicated structure together and the author responded with a tip to use a glue stick.  Now, I used a glue stick and I found it to be infuriatingly difficult to get those pieces to stay together.  I'm thinking maybe rubber cement (do they still make that?) or hot glue.

Meanwhile, in Hannah-Land, things were not going so hot.  She was having fun folding it and seeing the polyhedron come together (which was, after all kind of the point) but was as frustrated as I had been with gluing the tiny flaps in place.  After marveling at how all those pentagons make a shape that looked like what we got when we made rock candy last year, we gave up on it and tossed it into the recycle bin.  We had our fun and our learning, and got our lantern and it was a fair time to give up while we still had our sense of humor about us.

Would I recommend this little project?  Yes, but only to those infinitely patient or with high school geometry students.  The lantern is way cool on our shelf, so totally worth it!  I would highly recommend the polyhedron templates for young students learning about geometric solids.  Even though Hannah Jane never got hers all glued together, the folding and unfolding of the shapes and the examining of how it all comes together made it a wonderful learning experience!

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