Collaborative Dragon!

To end with flourish the topic about China with the students of 6th Year at Cherry Garden Primary School we have made a great Chinese dragon using paper plates. Each one has painted her paper plate as a color wheel, using only the primary colours and obtaining secondary and tertiary colours.
In another paper plate each one has painted her name in Chinese, this has been glued to the center of the colored plate, and the white edge has been cut to make some petals. Other petals have been cut from tissue paper and stuck on the white petals. At the end of the work, each student has realized his “flower”. The head and paws of the dragon have been made with other paper plates and then painted with tempera. A long rope was inserted in all the dishes to form a long, colorful snake … and here is our fantastic dragon!
A special thanks to the wonderful Year 6 teacher, Ms. Formoso!!
Here below the pictures of another wonderful Dragon created by Ms. Fernandes‘ students. This amazing teacher teaches in a primary school in Melbourne, Australia. A large number of her students have Vietnamese heritage- hence they refer to the new year as Lunar New Year and not Chinese New Year. 
They had three dragons made out of paper plates. 7 classes of grade three and four children painted these plates. She told me: “I shouldn’t take any credit for the work since I had a lot of help from the teachers of the classes involved and our hard-working- integration aides to assemble the dragon and hang up the display. So the credit for this work would go to students and teachers of Grade 3/4 from St.Joseph’s Primary School
Thanks, Ms. Fernandes for sharing your work! 
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  1. Wow! So cool!

  2. Ciao Miriam, grazie per essere passata e del bel messaggio! Fai davvero delle cose splendide ed il tuo blog è un gioiellino! Verrò spesso a trovarti! :-)Buona gionata!

  3. Grazie del messaggio Clara! Allora ci incontreremo in rete! A presto!

  4. Simply amazing!! How many students worked on this, or how many paper plates did you use? The dragon is SO impressive!

  5. Hi Miss March! In this class students are 23, but we did some more plates (27 in all) and we add the plate with the dragon head. Between the plates we put tubes of pasta (penne) for separating a plate on the other. Thanks for your comment!!

    • Yvonne de Cordova says

      This is beautiful work. Did you tie it to any specific art history period, artist, or cultural celebration? Did you complete the dragon head yourself or were your students able to do this piece as well? I’m thinking I might try a modified version of your project with my elementary students for Chinese New Year.

      • Hi Yvonne! When I did this dragon I was working at te primary school in Bristol, UK. The topic of the month was China and the dragon was the final collaborative project. I completed the head myself but children painted it. Would you like to send me a picture when you’ll finish your dragon? I’d like to post other dragons around the world, below our! 🙂

  6. Fabulous dragon!!!!!

  7. Dayana Nottage says

    I love this Dragon! I understand this was an older class but Im hoping to try a rendition of this with my Year Two Class. Anyway I think this is a very special dragon.Congratulations to you and your class!!!

  8. I am so excited and will be trying to do this for craft with an IM class. I think they will find it amazing and enjoy the activity.

    • I hope you and your children have fun as I enjoyed myself! If you send me a picture of your work I would be really happy! thanks for your comment Kristin! 🙂

  9. I am an Art Teacher in Arkansas, USA. We are currently doing projects celebrating Chinese New Year! I plan on ending my unit with this! Thanks for the inspiration!

  10. This looks great! I was just wondering where you punched the holes to put the string through. Did you just do one in the centre or two on both sides? I really want to do this activity, but I want to make sure I know how to put it all together.

    • The hole is in the center of the paper dish. Between the dishes I put a piece of maccheroni pasta, to maintain the distance between the plates! 🙂

  11. Jennifer Oliva says


    This is just amazing. My three and four year old preschool classes are celebrating Chinese New Year at the end of the most and this would be a fabulous project to incorporate into our day. One question though, how did you affix the petal looking things onto each plate?

    • Hi Jennifer! The white petals are fixed with the stapler, the petals of tissue paper are fixed with glue. Ask me any further question! I’m happy to follow your project 🙂

  12. How did you know how to write the children’s name in Chinese?

  13. Jennifer Oliva says

    This is fabulous! Thank you for sharing!

  14. Thanks for your ideas! We did this in our homeschool – 3 students and 1 mom teacher! I love how it turned out!

  15. This is amazing project for Chinese New Year! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
    How long did it take to finish the dragon with 23 students?

    • Hi Kaishi! It took about 3 lessons 6o minutes each, one for plates, one for names and petals. One group prepared the paws and another has decorated the head. Another hour to assemble everything… what do you think?

  16. Thank you for the wonderful project! I am a coach and was watching a teacher and her ESL students working on the “Chinese New Year” project – we all enjoyed it immensely!

    • Hi Lucy! Nice to meet you! I’m very happy to know that this idea is useful for many teacher, especially if you enjoyed it! Thanks for your comment!

  17. Thanks for this great project. I did it today and the kids loved it. One question: When assembling the dragon, how did you get the plates to not collapse onto themselves? I put in a piece of pasta (the ends are angled and not flat) on the yarn between the plates, and the plates fold down onto themselves like dominoes. Do you recommend a flat edged piece of pasta? Did you hang it in a special way? Any suggestions appreciated!

    Thanks for such a fun project.

    • I put in a flat edge piece of pasta, but I think is more important how you hang the dragon. We hung it with some plastic threads to the long tube lamps hanging from the ceiling. We used one thread for the dragon’s head, one for the plates with paws, one in the middle and one form the tail. The effect is a little bit as dominoes because the rope is passing in the center of the plates but you could hang the dragon in more points… tell me if it works! 🙂

  18. Lisa Macurak says

    Thanks so much for the idea…I would love to show you ours…please email me and I will send pictures

    New Windsor Middle School
    New Windsor, Maryland
    Lisa Macurak

  19. Your dragon is amazing! I would like to do this project with our 140 or so 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders…we will definitely have a long dragon! :0). I saw your tip about putting a piece of penne pasta between the plates when threading the plates into the rope…great idea! Do you have any other tips? I saw one person comment that the plates fell over onto each other on the rope, I’m wondering how to prevent that from happening. Do you have any photos that show the dragon from the side? I would also be interested to know what you did for the tail! It seems as though most Chinese dragons have a flame type of end to the tail? And on the head…I couldn’t tell from the pictures…but did you do hang whiskers or beard? Any tips or suggestions you have would be very very appreciated! I’m so excited to start this project! Thank you so much for sharing it and for electing us be inspired to do a similar project with our students!

    • Hi Lisa! Nice to meet you! My dragon was not so long as yours: maybe you’ll have the problem of plates that fall over onto each other with a such long dragon… I’m thinking about a thin rope fixed on the top of the dishes, in addition to the macaroni that keep separate the dishes. The tail was made of stripes of paper, as the beard, I’m going to search search other picture and I’ll send you them! 🙂

  20. Thank you so much for your reply…it’s nice to meet you too! I think we are rethinking doing one dragon for the whole upper elementary, we are going to do four individual dragons instead, that should be much more manageable! Thank you so much for the tips and suggestions, was well as answering my questions! If you end up having a picture from the side and of the tail that you can send me that would be great…we are starting on our paper plates today in Art class, wish me luck! :0)

    • Hi Lisa
      Did you receive my email? The pictures that I sent you are the only ones I’ve found. I didn’t fint details of the tail better than those.
      So, Good luck for your Dragons, I am sure that will be a success! 😉

  21. I am doing this with 60 reception children in England next Monday! Thank you so much for the inspiration. I have made stencils with the zodiac animal symbols which the children will sponge paint through rather than painting their name as it will teach them another technique and will be a little quicker/achievable for this younger age group. I am going to let them decorate with gold sequins too if time permits. Again thanks for the idea and all your help above. xx

  22. how do i do the face??

    • Hi Carrie! I used 3 plates one for the head, one for the nose and one for the mouth, I folded and cut out the plates but I don’t have pictures of the whole process. You have just the picture with the white head, where you can understand how the plates are cut, folded and pasted. Let me know if you can try to do it by yourself 🙂 If you need more help I could try to do another head and take picture of every step. 😉

  23. Hi Miriam, they came out fab and the children learnt so much, how can I send you photos? Xx

  24. Total last minute here! But I love this and am hoping to do this with my class this week! Shopping for material tonight! Gracias!

  25. Thank you so much for this creative and beautiful project. Children learn so many skills from collaborative works.

  26. We are finishing the dragon tomorrow in my second grade classroom as our celebration of Chinese New Year. I will post of photo when it is hanging! Thanks for the great idea!!

  27. Miriam, our school program is hoping to get this project in motion for February, in time for Chinese New Year. We are thinking of arranging this bulletin style on a wall. any suggestions? obviously, we can’t have it hang due to setting off any motion sensors. My email is Hoping to hear from you. Love the idea.

    • Hi Rita! Do you mean to get the dragon flat instead of three-dimensional? Perhaps you can do it as a long chain of dishes on the wall, and the head could be three-dimensional howsoever. When you finish I could put the picture of your project into the post, if you like! 😉

  28. Hi Miriam,
    I love your project and want to start it today for my Chinese New Year unit. I am working with 3 rd grade boys and am the art teacher. Can you send me pictures of the tail you described. Thank you so much for sharing it with other teachers.

    • Hi Felicia
      The dragon’s tail is just a bunch of colored crepe paper strips fixed at the last plate with a stapler. I’m afraid I don’t have pictures of this detail… 🙁

    • If you send me the picture of your dragon I’ll publish it in the post with your name and the School’s class 🙂

  29. This is wonderful!! I was looking for some inexpensive decoration ideas for my 6 year olds chinese theme birthday, and this is terrific! It’s great to have something that my kids can help with making as well, so many ideas are too complicated for little hands.

  30. nice work guys

  31. im working on it in class with 3 others right now

    • wow! If you like you can send me a picture and I’ll publish it with your name . Let me know if you would like to add your work to this post, and I send you my email
      Have a nice day! 🙂

  32. i will send you a pic

  33. I am one that work with Dylan

    • Nice to meet you Gabriel! I’ll be glad to have some pictures of your work, and publish them below the article with your names, as example of a different creation of the dragon. I’ve already written my email to Dylan 🙂

  34. How did you make the face? Have you any instructions? My daughter is doing this as a part of her Shang Dynasty homework.

    • Hi Supriya. Sorry, unfortunately, I don’t’ have any instruction for the dragon face. I invented on the moment with three paper plates, a pair of scissors, and a stapler. Try to copy it from the picture, I actually don’t remember how I did it Sorry! 🙁

  35. How wonderful! Thank you for sharing. I started at a new school this August, we’ve been IN school the entire time. I wanted to create a collaborative dragon, but could not conceive of which way/method to use to construct it, and to get everyone involved safely. This is great. I’m going to experiment to determine if this is something I can do next year. Thanks again.

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