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The Geodesic Dome

When engineer and writer R. Buckminster Fuller invented the geodesic dome, I bet he never realized how well it would function as a playhouse. In fact, you might as well just stop reading this magazine and get a stack of newspaper right now, because this is clearly the coolest project between the covers.

Who would ever believe that the Sunday paper and a stapler would be all you need to create a life-size structure big enough to hold a bevy of children? Our dome was, at turns, a fort, a gingerbread house, a cave, and a camping tent. And after the fun, it was easily turned back into plain old recyclable newspaper.

Matthew, Stephanie, John, and Jessie, work to construct a geodesic dome of rolled up newspaper in their classroom at Wadworth Elementary School. (Photo: The News-Journal/Brian Myrick)

Materials needed: 100 sheets of newspaper (the large full square), Pencil, Masking tape, Scissors, Yardstick, Stapler, Colored tissue paper (optional), Glue stick (optional)


1. You´ll need four sheets to make each newspaper log. Spread the sheets open flat, one on top of the other.

Set the pencil in the corner, and roll across the diagonal. Use the pencil as a general guide to help you roll evenly; don´t try to make the logs as thin as the pencil! When you get to the other end of the paper, you´ll have a tube or log. Slip the pencil out and tape the log shut.

Repeat this process until you have 25 logs. Then trim the ends, making sure all the logs are the same length. Ours were about 30 inches long (if you want to try and match the Completed! photo).

2. You´ll need a big, open space to construct the dome in. Staple three logs together to create a triangle.

Repeat until you´ve constructed five triangles like the one shown. (Note: For steps 2, 3, and 4, we used miniature models of the real thing so they´d be easier to photograph.)

3. Staple the five triangles to each other at their bottom corners. Add connecting logs across the top. Then raise the triangles, or walls, off the floor and staple the ends together to form a pentagonal structure. It helps to have a few kids hold up the walls while you staple.

4. Take the remaining five logs and staple them together at the center to make a star. Staple the free ends of the star to the junctions of the triangles on the top of the base, and the structure will stand by itself.

Now, if you want to get fancy, smear glue onto the roof logs and gently press pieces of colored tissue paper onto the roof triangles. You can rip or cut the edges off, and voila, an easy-to-do stained glass effect for the roof!

From FamilyFun Magazine (March 1999)

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