The West Hartford elementary school will await verification, but they believe they set a new Guinness World Record Wednesday for the ‘Largest Butterfly Origami.’
By Ronni Newton
The atmosphere was intense in the Webster Hill gym Wednesday afternoon, but not because students were competing in a rowdy sporting event.
Instead, a small crowd watched as two fifth graders, overseen by math tutor Madelyn Filomeno and physical education teacher Eileen Shahverdian, carefully folded a large square of red paper. Part of the way through the process a mistake was made, but the girls persevered.
In just about 45 minutes, the 24-foot-by-24-foot square was transformed into a giant origami butterfly with a wingspan that measured 4.363 meters at the widest point according to West Hartford Engineer Peter Woelk who supervised the surveying.
After two years of planning and countless smaller butterflies created as practice, the team of “folders” – Webster Hill 5th graders Annie Lopez-Lopez and Amy Ni – completed what all hope will be a record-breaking creation.
“We tried for the record two years ago, but it wasn’t big enough,” Shahverdian said. At that time, the world record origami butterfly measured just over 2 meters. “This is definitely bigger than any record we know of,” Shahverdian said. If measured on the diagonal, the butterfly is a full 5 meters.
Filomeno has used origami to work with her math students on angles and mathematical equations. About 20 of the 4th and 5th graders got so interested in the craft that they joined the origami club and worked at it during some of their recess time.
Annie and Amy, who are both in Mrs. Burkey’s 5th grade class, honed their skills enough to be chosen for the world record project. “It was really great,” Annie said about having the opportunity to participate in setting a Guinness World Record.
Amy had some origami skills already, but is now even more enthusiastic about the art. She said she makes birds with wings that flap, boats, boxes, and frames, in addition to butterflies. “We’re going to keep on learning more,” Annie said.
Shahverdian said it will be months before Guinness lets the school know if the record has been met, but believes they have followed the process to the letter and should make it. In addition to Woelk who performed the surveying, another town engineer and several origami experts were on site to witness the butterfly’s creation. West Hartford Public Relations Specialist Renée McCue documented it all on video.
Dori Melowicz, an origami expert who volunteers at the New Britain Museum of Art, witnessed the creation. She had previously consulted with Filomeno and Shahverdian to help them find acceptable paper – which ended up being strips of Kraft paper from the art room, attached with fabric tape to form a 24 foot by 24 foot square.
“The kids and teachers came up with the design, but the biggest challenge is size,” Melowicz said. A typical sheet of paper used for origami is 6 inches by 6 inches. She said that to be authentic, origami paper must appear contiguous when folded, and cannot be glued or cut.
“We started small, and there are a trail of butterflies all around the school,” Filomeno said. “It’s a lot of work, a lot of steps. This was a learning process for them, fractions and more,” she said. No matter what Guinness says, Filomeno feels they have already set a record with the interest and excitement about learning that this project has created.
“My job is to support, and if I can do anything to get children to do learning on their own, that’s success,” she said.
The choice of a butterfly has extra meaning for Webster Hill, which is known among West Hartford elementary schools as the “butterfly school” because of the butterfly house in the school’s living courtyard. Filomeno was part of the original group of PTO parents who helped transform the courtyard into a butterfly house nearly two decades ago.
Every classroom includes butterflies in the curriculum. “We watch and nurture the process from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis, to butterfly. We then tag our butterflies and at a whole school ceremony, we release the monarchs and celebrate their migration to Mexico,” Webster Hill Principal Jeff Wallowitz said.
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