Runge program offers paper-making for kids
Sunday, November 17, 2013
The wet pulpy fibers settled under the surface of the water in a decidedly murky fashion. But for the three young girls working to press their own sheets of handmade paper on Saturday afternoon, the goop felt like a lot of fun.
Saturday’s event was the last in a trio of paper-making activities held at Runge Nature Center this week.
The first program, held Thursday evening, was designed as an art class for women. The second program, aimed at the region’s homeschool community on Friday, taught students how to blend recyclable paper with nature’s bounty of petals, seeds, feathers and snakeskin. Saturday’s afternoon event, aimed at children, was part of Runge’s weekly “What’s Going On?” program.
“We’ve gotten smarter in our old age,” said Robin Grumm, assistant manager. “We’ve learned to create activities we can use more than just once.”
Grumm said more than 100 young people visited Runge on Saturday to participate in the program, designed and staffed entirely by volunteers. Gretchen Hannah and Judith Lambayan worked the Saturday event together.
“This is kind of our passion,” Hannah said.
She noted that most of the paper Americans use today is recycled. “That wasn’t the case when we first started,” she said.
To make the pulp, she tears up about five sheets of paper and adds it to a blender filled almost full of water. Perfecting the right paper-to-water mix took some experimentation, she said, noting that old newsprint tended to make new paper that was too grey and old magazines tended to introduce too much clay and not enough fiber. Finding recyclable paper with long fibers is her goal.
“I bring in old envelopes, colored paper from school, card stock and washed coffee filters,” she added.
Abriana Gillette, 8, Jenna Dillon, 9, and Jordan Dillon, 9, traded advice as they pressed and squished the wet pulp flat between screens, boards and towels.
Jenna Dillon took a moment to tell Gillette how the process works. “You have to get all the water out and press here,” she explained.
For her part, Gillette was interested not only in making colored paper, she wanted to add some texture. “I wanted to add flower petals,” she said.
Although it’s changed over time, the paper-making program has become an annual tradition at Runge. It’s also quite an undertaking, requiring the help of about 20 volunteers who started in the spring to collect, dry and press the flowers they use later in the fall.
Jan Alexander also helped guide the children’s small hands.
She said Runge’s weekly Saturday programs have become quite popular, especially on rainy days like Saturday when many family’s men-folk are busy with the first day of deer season.
“It continues to draw people in, because they know there is going to be a family activity going on here,” she said.
• Toilet paper was first introduced to Americans in 1871 and paper towels were accidentally invented in 1907 when a run of bathroom tissue came out too thick on the machine.
• The average American consumes 749 pounds of paper products annually.
• Half of the world’s forests have already been cleared or burned.
• Compared to using virgin wood, paper made with 100 percent recycled content uses 44 percent less energy, produces 38 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, 50 percent less wastewater and — of course — 100 percent less wood.
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