Lesson Plans MMoCA Collects

Jin Soo Kim: Recycled Tree

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Jin Soo Kim, Strata, chenille bedspread, acrylic, steel, copper wire, medical plaster, bandage, and found keyboard, 1991.
Sample image
Sample image

Developed by Susan Sewell, Columbus School District, Columbus, Wisconsin; art instruction by Bonnie Halvorson, Columbus Elementary School

Summary of Activity

This project combines art and science as students use recycled paper to create a tree sculpture. The art of Jin Soo Kim will be used to inspire students and encourage their use of creativity.

Learning Objectives

Students will connect the concept that recycling paper can help save our natural resources.

Students will show their knowledge of sculpture by creating one.

Students will look at the textures, shapes, and sizes of paper and visualize how they could represent the parts of a tree.

Students will learn about trees found in the area and will collectively decide on the type of tree the class will make.

Students will describe the basic life cycle of a tree.

Students will discuss how the tree sculpture could act as a symbol that represents the importance of recycling.


Students will discuss Jin Soo Kim's work as a sculptor and share examples of her sculptures. Students will understand her technique of using found objects of various shapes and textures to create sculpture. Students will then use recycled paper to create a tree sculpture.


  1. Discuss type of trees with students. Have samples of branches, bark, or a tree cross section for students to see and touch.
  2. Discuss the life cycle of trees and the length of time it takes a tree to grow. Talk about how long it takes to cut down a tree.
  3. Encourage students to make the connection between how slowly trees grow and the importance of recycling paper.
  4. Choose the type of tree to create as a class.
  5. Instruct students to use paper to create branches (rolling works well), roots, and tree bark; if possible, roll paper around wire to permit more precise shaping of branches and roots to better illustrate the particular tree species.
  6. Drill one-inch holes at one end of the cardboard tube to insert tree branches and at the other end to insert the roots.
  7. Tell students to then glue their bark onto the cardboard tube, keeping holes exposed.
  8. Students may begin inserting their branches and roots in the holes, using masking tape and/or hot glue to stabilize them.

    Note: This project was done by first grade students who created the rolled branches and roots, as well as the bark. High school students then put the tree together. This can be varied considerably depending upon the age group. It makes an interesting display for the school entrance in celebration of Earth Day or Arbor Day.


Various tree guidebooks and photos of trees

Curriculum connections

Art (sculpture) and life/environmental science

grade level

Elementary, middle


Cereal boxes
Toilet tissue rolls
Tissue/wrapping paper
Masking tape
Hot glue
Cardboard concrete shaper, available at lumber and hardware stores (a cardboard tube from a large roll of paper would substitute for the concrete shaper)


an artist who creates three-dimensional works of art, especially by carving, modeling, or casting

the processing of used or waste material so that it can be used again, instead of being wasted

natural resource:
a naturally occurring material such as coal or wood that can be exploited by people

life cycle:
the sequence of changes each living thing passes through during its life time

preserving, guarding, or protecting


This lesson meets the following Wisconsin Model Academic Standards for science:

Grade 4:

E.4.7 Using the science themes, describe resources used in the home, community and nation as a whole.

A.4.5 When studying a science-related problem, decide what changes over time are occurring or have occurred.

Grade 8:

F.8.9 Explain how some of the changes on earth are contributing to changes in the balance of life and affecting the survival or population growth of certain species.

The lesson also meets this National Science Education Standard: 

Content Standard F: As a result of activities in grades K-4, all students should develop understanding of types of resources and changes in the environment.


Jin Soo KimStrata, 1991, chenille bedspread, acrylic, steel, copper wire, medical plaster, bandage, and found keyboard, 100 x 26 1/2 x 13 inches. Collection of Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Purchase, through Rudolph and Louise Langer Fund. 1993.05 © Jin Soo Kim

Elementary, middle

Art, science