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Crafting STEM Magic with Paper Mosaics

Uncover the magic of mosaics! Originating in ancient Mesopotamia, these intricate artworks have evolved from historical gems to modern floor and pool decorations. Now, picture incorporating mosaics into a Christmas STEM activity – a delightful blend of creativity, math, and geometry for a festive learning experience!


Title slide for blog post


Mosaics are pictures formed by assembling tiny pieces of glass, tile, or stone, and people have been creating them for thousands of years. Crafting mosaics involves arranging small pieces, known as tesserae, to create intricate designs. The origins of mosaics can be traced back to Mesopotamia, where simple pieces adorned a temple around 3000 BC. Over time, the Greeks and Romans enhanced the art, depicting real-life scenes and symbols. In the fourth century, Christian scenes appeared in European basilicas, and although mosaics fell out of favor during the Renaissance, they are experiencing a revival today, finding use in various forms, from DIY craft kits to street art and photomosaics.

Kids explore patterns, which are not only beautiful in mosaics but also important in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Mosaics extend beyond artistic expression to practical applications. They are commonly used to create intricate patterns on floors in homes and hotels. Some cities incorporate mosaic designs into sidewalks for a unique and aesthetically pleasing look. Additionally, mosaics enhance the visual appeal of swimming pools with decorative patterns. In spaces like spas and wellness centers, mosaics contribute to a relaxing atmosphere. They also serve functional purposes, such as in kitchens as durable and visually interesting backsplashes, and in bathrooms, where mosaic walls and floors provide a waterproof and stylish solution.

Mosaics and STEM Education

Teaching STEM with mosaics is like combining art and science to make learning fun and interesting. In this approach, students not only get to be creative but also dive into various STEM concepts. They explore patterns, which are not only beautiful in mosaics but also important in science, technology, engineering, and math.

There is a lot of math involved in creating mosaics, including symmetry, patterns, and shapes. These items are used by artists to make exquisite mosaics. Students benefit from practicing their problem-solving abilities by considering how to create and identify various patterns.

Decorative mosaic tile pattern

Mosaics are not just about making things look nice; they also show us a lot about the past. When we look at old mosaics, we can learn how people in the past used technology and art. For example, Romans decorated their homes with mosaic patterns that told stories from myths, daily life, and nature. The ancient Maya also used mosaics made from stones, jade, and shells to make their temples in places like Tikal and Copán look beautiful.


Start by telling your students about paper mosaics. Explain that mosaics are made by arranging small pieces of colored stuff, like glass, ceramic, or paper, to create a bigger picture or design. Show them examples of mosaics and ask if they have seen any in their homes, neighborhoods, or school. Watch videos about the history and techniques of making mosaics. Tell students to ask questions and share their thoughts after watching the videos, so you can all talk about it as a class. 

For the paper mosaic activity, gather the following materials:

  • Coloring pages

  • Colored paper

  • Scissors

  • Glue sticks

An example of a student paper mosaic

To create the paper mosaics, follow these steps:

Choose a design

  • There are links to different designs on the Activity Slideshow

  • Print out a variety of designs that students can choose from

  • If you decide to seek out more coloring pages, look for ones with simple designs and not a lot of details

Select Colors

  • The teacher should print out graphs on ½ inch and centimeter graph paper (these two sizes work well with the designs)

  • The teacher should make copies of these graphs on to different colored pages

  • The teacher should cut the pages into strips using a paper cutter.

  • Students choose different colored strips. Make sure to choose a variety of colors

Cut Paper Tiles

  • Cut the strips into small squares. Precision is not crucial; the squares don't need to be perfect.

  • You only need enough paper tiles to start your mosaic. You can cut more as needed.

Arrange the Tiles

  • Arrange the paper tiles to create your design.

  • Use different sizes of paper tiles and different colors of tiles

  • Fill in the background around the design with patterns

Glue Down the Pieces

  • Do one small section at a time

  • Remove the paper tiles from a section

  • Rub the glue stick on the area you are going to place paper tiles

  • Place the tiles on the glue

  • If you touch the glue stick with your finger, it will make it easy to pick up the paper tiles and place them


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