Concrete Hands on Learning in the Virtual World

A snapshot of video call participants on a Zoom call for Project VisMO.

Picture a Zoom gallery view of 9 year olds sharing how they collaboratively problem solved how to fold a box half the height of its original design. “First we tried all of our own strategies and then shared if it worked. I tried her strategy and folded smaller triangles. And it worked! Now the box is smaller!” The student then holds up their completed box successfully half the height of the original, to their webcam.

This was a sample group share of the VisMO Masterclass Virtual Steam Camp launched earlier this month. Developed in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s Safer at Home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The VisMO research team at The Jacobs Institute of Innovation in Education designed this camp to provide students with an opportunity to explore spatial and geometric concepts with origami inspired problem solving challenges during this time of social distancing and interruption of regular in person instruction. Masterclass is part of the NSF grant funded Project VisMO, which aims to refine and evaluate the effectiveness, durability, and transfer of an innovative origami-based program on visuospatial skills, with a focus on elementary school Bilingual Learners. 

In early April, the team recruited fourth-grade students from all over California. The team was overwhelmed with a large number of applications and the enthusiasm of children, parents, and teachers. To prepare for the program, materials kits were printed and packed with care by team members using gloves, a mask, and a disinfected surface. Students received their packets mailing directly to their homes and were ready to start camp on May 4th.

For each day of camp, students meet with instructors via Zoom where they are tasked with a new folding challenge to develop their grasp of spatial concepts such as dimension and object transformation. Students work in teams, use spatial language and accountable talk to brainstorm strategies and collaborate.

Pictured below are some challenges completed by the students. To learn more about Project VisMO and join the project visit

Picture of boy holding up a piece of origami that he created for Project VisMO.Picture of girl holding up a piece of origami that she created for Project VisMO.



Picture of paper used for origami for Project VisMO.

Picture of origami on a table made for Project VisMO.

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