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The Froebel Star: A holiday craft and STEAM activity

Making a holiday craft as a STEAM activity? Learn what math and holiday crafts have in common by making a Froebel Star.

Two different versions of Froebel Stars
Two different versions of Froebel Stars. Photo by Insa Raymond, MSU Extension.

December is the month for family time, finding the perfect Christmas tree, hot chocolate, gift giving and making holidays crafts. It is a perfect time to try your hand at making a Froebel Star. It is important to stimulate curiosity in children, give them opportunity for discovery and exploration, and engage them in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) activities. But what do holiday crafts and STEAM activities have in common?

The Froebel Star is a form of origami—taking a flat, two-dimensional piece of paper and folding it into a three-dimensional shape, a star in this case. Start out with four flat strips of paper. By careful and precise folding and weaving these strips of paper, youth will discover various shapes such as squares, triangles and cones. They will discover basics of geometry and work with parallels and angles while making their star. The end product is a beautiful, three-dimensional star with 16 points.

For further exploration, try making the star with different kinds of paper or aluminum foil. Try different sizes or try to make a star with more or with less points. It does take a little practice and experimenting to make a Froebel Star.

The Froebel Star (Fröbelstern in German) is very common in the German culture around the holidays. It makes a wonderful holiday decoration or holiday gift. The star is called Froebel Star after Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852), a German educator who founded the Kinder Garten, early education for 4- to 6-year-olds. His early childhood education theory is based on creative, constructive play and self-activity. The role of the teacher is to encourage self-expression through play.

Froebel encouraged paper folding activities with children to introduce them to the mathematical concepts of shapes. However, it is in question if he actually invented the Froebel Star.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success.

To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our Impact Reports.

Michigan 4-H has many 4-H science programming areas for youth to explore. Science is everywhere with many questions to ask and discoveries to be made. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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