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STEM Activities With Recycled Newspapers

This post has fun STEM activities with recycled newspapers to help children with some concrete mathematical activities. The ideas are inexpensive, and children enjoy them. With old newspapers, tape, string, and scissors the children can be entertained. My father was a printer at the StarTribune and so he would show us many interesting things that can be done with extra newspapers. This is a story about what we learned from him (PDF opens here).

Fun Activities With Recycled NewspapersFirst, the Möbius strip is a continuous one-sided band.  If an ant starts walking on one, the ant will end up where it started.  What is fun is that when cut down the middle (like the median on a highway) it will open into two interlocked circles.  Children like to try different numbers of twists to see if this always happens or not. Here is a tray prepared with a Möbius strip and also one cut in the middle showing what happens. For the very young, draw a line down the middle of the “road” to support the cutting efforts.

STEM on a Budgetprepare-tray-so-ready-for-cutting-paper

When a different number of twists are made to the Möbius strip before taping closed, different results occur.  Usually, the circles are interlocked.  Children like the trial and error approach and trying this again and again. (I do realize this changes the intent of the math.)


By rolling up a few newspaper pages, tying with a string, and cutting thin strips at one end, a tree is prepared and ready to grow.  Next, reach in the end with the fringe, and pull carefully on the part of the newspaper not cut.  The tree will grow right before the children’s eyes.  If tape is used when the paper is first rolled up, the growth is more limited. Steve Spangler science has more detailed information about this project. With his project, a cardboard tube is also used, which is good if this is being done with just a few children.

make newspaper trees that "grow"

Next, a single sheet of newspaper may be folded in to a square.  Fold one corner over keeping the edges straight, and crease.  Cut off the excess inch or so on the one side.  Now you have a square.  Any origami folding may be used, such a a hat. This is a link to a page with origami instructions.

STEM newspaper-for-origamiNewspapers may be used for gift wrapping practice for children, also, and it won’t ruin any nice gift wrap.  When they have learned a little and practiced, this post at Living Montessori Now could be used to help them further their skills:

Montessori-Inspired Kids’ Gift Wrapping Activities

Here is a grocery bag is full of prepared Möbius strips for a classroom.  Children do think these activities are fun.  My students would remember doing these activities as a favorite at the end of the school year.


I have written this blog post as a story, also.  The story behind this post is here and tells this from my viewpoint in the 1950s as a child.  Yup, I’m old!  🙂

when newspapers-were-toysfree printable story from the 1950's Thank you for reading, Carolyn

how-newspapers-toys-in-the-1950s and are STEM activities today

You might also like to build your own solar oven and make smores.