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Paper Plate Education

"Serving the Universe on a Paper Plate

Paper Plate Education is an initiative to reduce complex notions to simple paper plate explanations.  This website promotes innovative hands-on Activities that you can experience across a range of interests, at varying degrees of complexity, and at a low price—all with common paper plates.  


I began building and curating the collection of activities at after being introduced to the concept by Wayne James in 1992.    The site is kindly host on DePaul University servers, managed by David Jabon.  However, because the MS FrontPage software originally used to create the site is obsolete, I cannot upload or edit content there.  Hence, recent contributions are added below.

See the Background of Paper Plate Education for details.

Go straight to my website

Site Map


The heart of this website--a collection of hands-on activities that use paper plates to supplement lessons in astronomy and other disciplines.  Required surfing, from Analemmas to Zoetropes.  


Astronomy Foundations Through Art & Paper Plates (AFTAPP), a program in which teachers fuse informed stargazing, related lore, and modern astronomical discoveries into their own interpretation of specific constellations.  Participants make artistic tiles that represents their modern understanding of those constellations.

Analemma Project

Trace the path of the noon sun across the earth for one year to recreate an analemma, the figure-8 shape seen on some globes.


Experience a stargazing adventure at an astronomy camp for kids in Three Rivers, Michigan.  


Kind acknowledgments from a few Internet interests who found this site to be interesting. 


Information on round paper instruments (volvelles) that date to the 15th century; the use of paper plates in the past; and the development of the Paper Plate Education website and materials.

Bad Moons Rising

Excerpts from children's picture books that depict the moon erroneously.


A partial listing of contributors to the collective effort of Paper Plate Education .


Some frequently (and less-than-frequently) asked questions.

Full Circle

Exquisite art constructed from paper plates which honors the circle.

Lighting Issues

Save the heritage of the night sky through better use of outdoor lights.  (Site expanded to 


A list of websites with related material and paper plate activities published independently of Paper Plate Education.


Fusing the enthusiasm and talent of space scientists and educators to yield appreciation for and understanding of the firmament.  Here are a few measurable steps.


A list of references for papers and posters relating to paper plate activities, from 1992 to 2002.

Transit of Venus Introduction

Features the June 8, 2004, celestial spectacle in which the disk of Venus is seen passing in front of the sun.  Much more content at  

Transit of Venus Program

Resources for educators and planetarians covering the transit of Venus.  Includes DVD and data CD set; optional audio CD; optional slides; digital images; animations and video clips; and links to other materials.

Video/DVD/Streaming Video

Excerpts of pictures and instructions from the 70-minute Paper Plate Astronomy videotape/DVD, which demonstrates the construction and use of nine paper plate activities and variations; also links to videotape/DVD order form.

What's New?

An ongoing list of material that is added to the website.  See this page to stay current with all changes, corrections, and additions to Paper Plate Education.

Recent Activities

New activities added below complement the original paper plate Activities.  Thank you for your contributions.

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Make a Stained Glass Earth

Simulate a stained glass window that displays the earth or other celestial bodies.  From NASA.  (Feb. 2024)

When Do Lunar Eclipses Happen?

Students use a paper plate to build a model that shows why lunar eclipses don’t happen during every full moon. From NASA.  (Feb. 2024)

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Solar Eclipse Mask

Extend the coverage area of eclipse glasses to provide extra protection for safely viewing a solar eclipse.  From NASA (Dec. 19, 2023)


Make a model of a ringed exoplanet with a foam sphere encircled by a paper plate  and other design elements.  Idea courtesy of University of Notre Dame "Astroblast" event.   (May 24, 2016)

Balanced Plate

At Kennedy Primary Academy, students arrange balanced diets on paper plates. April 2, 2015

Learning Space Hangout

I show and discuss a variety of paper plate activities on a Google Hangout with Learning Space.  See  "Episode 87: Paper Plate Astronomy with Chuck Bueter on 28 January 2015"

Man on the Moon

Man on the Moon activity for pre-K children is use for color recognition, fine motor skills, and learning the letter M.  Courtesy of Andy Bowers.  (Dec. 3, 2014)

Longitude Dial

Construct a dial to demonstrate the correlation of longitude and time.  Use dial to illustrate the success of John Harrison's H-4 chronometer.  Courtesy of Patricia Shaw, latitude40arts.  (Dec. 3, 2014)


Kids at the Art 2 Science Camp make hovercrafts from one of Curt Gabrielson's books.  Courtesy of Micha Kilburn, Joint Institute for Nuclear Astophysics ( JINA) Outreach Coordinator.   (May 8, 2012)

American Pie Party

Fighting sorrow with humor, American Pie Party raises philanthropic support for cancer agencies through the actual physical act of throwing a pie in the face of a willing participant.  Courtesy of Tony Sobony.  (March 25, 2013)

Transit of Venus Bead

"Kids can put the bead where Venus is during the transit!  I used the animation on the Transit of Venus website to approximate the path across the sun."  Courtesy of Kathy East, Challenger Learning Center of Alaska.  (Dec. 22, 2011)

Transit of Venus Frequency
Kathryn Williamson improved the original Transit of Venus Frequency with her text and graphics.  Activity explains the strange pattern of ToV's occurrence.  (Feb. 5, 2012)
Story of Penguins
"We've all got a story to tell...Writing allows you to share good times and the bad.  Write like the best of them."  Penguins like water.  Courtesy of Melissa Cowden, St. Adalbert School, South Bend, IN.   (Nov. 22, 2010)
Recent Activities
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