• Matt Suprunowicz

Spreading Messages That Take Root: Seed Paper


How can we creatively communicate with others while practicing social distancing?


 

This Lesson Plan is part the Crafts Module of SustainEd Farms' virtual programming.

Background

Due to the spread of COVID-19, the traditional methods of communicating with other humans -- that is, face-to-face interaction -- has been disrupted indefinitely. Sending hard-copy “quarantine update” letters or words of encouragement to the important people in your life is a wonderful way to keep in contact, giving your wisdom and/or rundown of your life a lasting presence.


Spreading your message on seed paper can be an even more rewarding mode of outreach since the paper itself will turn into something beautiful once the note is no longer relevant (of course, you can opt to keep any seed paper note without planting it, if you wish to). A seed paper-based letter takes on a level of significance in this way, demonstrating the power of enjoying the present moment and then letting go, perhaps despite difficult circumstances. Using the guide below, you will be able to send messages to your friends and family members that, literally, take root!


Learning Objectives

Students will be able to...

  • Reuse paper waste to create dual-purpose, sustainable, and aesthetically pleasing cards, notepaper, and invitations that can be gifted and eventually planted in the garden

  • Write notes to friends and family about their experiences with social distancing


Academic Vocabulary

pulp /pəlp/ noun. - the sum mass of the liquid and solid components of a blended, juiced, or ground material


Directions

1. Gather your materials. You will need the following supplies:


scrap paper (newspaper, old assignment/notebook paper, computer paper, notepaper, paper grocery bags, egg cartons, paper mail, etc.) · large mixing bowl · warm water · spatula or spoon · blender · seeds · strainer · drying/spreading surface: a towel and fiber woven cloth · rolling pin · markers, pencils, crayons, paint or other supplies for decoration


💭 Think about this… the scrap paper you use will determine the color of the paper that you create! Using paper with ink, for instance, will probably mix all of the colors on the page into a single blend. If you desire a certain color, make sure you’re using adequate amounts of that color in your paper mix.


2. Watch the following Youtube video to see a demonstration on making seed paper. Then, follow along with the remainder of the lesson below.


3. Tear your scrap paper into small shreds, and soak. Place the shredded pieces into your mixing bowl, and soak them in hot water, covering all the way to the top surface. Let the shredded paper soak for an hour, or until they are very soft.


4. Using a spoon or spatula, transfer a portion of your paper/water blend into a blender, and blend on a low setting. Depending on how much paper you have, you may want to work in batches, filling the blender no more than ¾ full per batch. Use a generous amount of water to aid the blending process. Inspect your mixture, and blend any remaining chunks of paper -- you are looking for a uniform pulp texture for your end product. We will strain the mixture in a later step, so do not worry about too much water.


5. Transfer the pulp back into your mixing bowl, and add your seeds to the mixture by stirring them in until they are uniformly distributed. Remember that you should only add your seeds after you are completely finished blending since blending the seeds will impair their ability to germinate. Add as many seeds as you would like, but try to avoid clumps. At this stage, you can also add in ingredients like essential oils, extracts, spices, seasonings, or even dried flowers to give your paper a unique smell… be creative!


🌱 Seed selection tips… Be mindful of what seeds you select to put into your mix by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is it the proper time of year to plant this seed variety?

  • Will this seed survive in the climate that it will be planted in?

  • Do I want flowers, vegetables, fruits, grains, etc.?

  • What size are the seeds, and how will they impact the texture of the paper?

6. Pour your seed mixture into a strainer (preferably mesh; if you do not have a mesh strainer, use a colander layered with cheesecloth). Use a spatula or spoon to compress the mixture to remove as much water as possible.


7. Layer your spreading surface (fiber cloth) on top of a towel, and dump your strained mixture onto the cloth. Spread material out evenly with your fingers, and use a rolling pin to roll the paper flat. Your target thickness should be about 5 times the thickness of normal paper since this paper will continue to shrink as the water evaporates (a thinner spread means a quicker drying time). You can place a towel on top of the paper to help take more moisture out as you roll. Make the paper into any shape you want, but know that you will be able to cut the paper into shapes post-drying. Let your paper dry for a day or two.


8. Decorate the paper with whatever you want! Use markers, crayons, pencils, paint, or pens to write a note or draw a picture. If you send the paper to someone else, give them planting instructions (you can simply water the paper and see if the seeds germinate and sprout, or you can lay the paper on some soil in your garden, and water). Enjoy!



Additional Resources:

Download the PDF version of this lesson plan:

Spreading Messages That Take Root_ Seed Paper
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