How to Make: Origami Jumping Frog

In honor of the Partners for Amphibian and Reptile Conservation’s first annual Amphibian Week, I will be publishing two amphibian related activities. Each activity will require about 90 minutes altogether if you do all the parts, and each contains some observation, some playful learning opportunities, and concludes with a Maker project and a chance to reflect.

UPDATE EVENT POSTPONED: Out of respect for the nationwide protests across the United States that resulted from the most recent series of cases of police violence, most recently of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and so many others, I will postpone my Amphibian Week live event until a later date.

Ecological action and justice are intimately linked to racial and social justice on many levels because communities of color and former colonial lands have long been exploited and will be impacted more heavily by climate change.

However, the loss of human life right now requires a response, and I will spend this evening working on a different artistic project that I will be showing later this month about my intersectional identity and privilege as it relates to my grassroots, and activist practices.

I will be streaming a live class on Monday, June 1 at 4:30 PM EDT via GoogleMeet and FacebookLive. I will answer questions live in the GoogleMeet session, and find answers for questions that come up in the Facebook livestream later on.

To make the origami frog, you will need the following materials:

Drawing and coloring implements to create your frog’s camouflage pattern, plus card stock, recycled cardboard, a paper plate, business cards, or other stiff paper-like material. Regular paper will not work.  For example:

Essential questions: 

  • What influences how a frog jumps?
  • How does it relate to my body? 
  • What changes can I make to my paper frog to make it more like X frog which jumps far?  
  • What changes can I make to my paper frog to make it more like Y toad which walk-hops?

FIRST: Look 

  • Some frogs have long legs, some frogs have short legs.
  • Frogs that have short legs don’t jump as high or as far as frogs with long legs.  
  • Which frog do you think jumps the farthest?
  • What do you notice about these frogs?
    • (Shape color, legs, arms proportions)
FrogLeg lengthOther Observationsjumper?
African Red Legged Running frogLongGrey- brown with spotsYes
European Common ToadShortbumpy, green, black, and brownOk
Berdmore’s Chorus FrogLOOONG!Smooth, orange and purple brownsVery Good
Bumblebee toadShortAlmost black with yellow spotsCrawls


You will need: comfortable clothes, and a big space to walk, run, and jump and run in.  

Mark out the beginning and end of your racetrack.  If you have outdoor space great!  If not, you can run from one end of a room to another.  This is an experiment in thinking about how our bodies and the bodies of amphibians work.  

If you have a grown-up or friend who can time your race with their phone, that would be fun, but we can learn something even by yourself. You can try with different kinds of shoes,or holding onto your knee if you are alone.  The goal is to think about how it feels different when you move in a different way.  

Count your steps and record your time as you try these different ways of getting from one end of the room to the other:

  • Walk
  • Run
  • Tiptoe
  • Hop on one foot
  • Jump
  • Leap (from one foot to the other)
  • Hold onto your knees
  • Really fast but with the smallest steps you can make.
  • Walk with your hands and feet on the ground (or just crawl)

As you move, think about how that motion feels in your legs and your body.

As you move, try as hard as you can to go as fast as you can.

  • What do you notice?  
  • How many steps made the run faster?
  • Why do you think that running is faster than walking?
  • What do you notice about running versus leaping?  
  • How do you think this relates to frogs?
  • After running, walking, and leaping, why do you think that salamanders, another kind of amphibian, don’t jump?

THIRD: Make 

A sample of a frog, colored a bit like a bumblebee toad. Does it hop like a bumble toad or leap like a Beredmore’s Chorus Frog?

To engineer your frog you will want to cut your first piece of cardboard or card stock to be the same proportions as a business card which is 2” x 3.5”. 

  • If you want to make a bigger card, you can use math to make it bigger:
    • 2 / 3.5 = 4 / X
    • 2X = 3.5 * 4
    • X = 14/2
    • X = 7
    • So you could make a 4” x 7” rectangle to start

You can decorate your frog either before or after you fold.  

  • If you want to match one of the species in the video, it might be easier to color once your frog is folded, because it will be easier to see where the patterns match up.  
  • If you are inventing your own frog species, you can decide on an all-over pattern using repeating shapes and colors and glue on eyes later.  


1. With the side you want on the outside down on the table, you are going to take the top edge, and make it match the left side of your card.  To crease, you can use the edge of your scissors handle, or a pen.  

2. Open it up.

3. Fold the top edge to match the right side of your card.  

4. Open it up.

5. You will see an X in the middle of the top part of your card. 

6. Match the top corners to the bottom corners of the X, not to the bottom of the card, but to the bottom of the x.

7. Open it up.

8. Flip it over and re-crease that fold.

9. Flip it back so that the side you want outside is on the table.  You will now have a line through your X.

10. Pinch that line.  Squish it flat. It will look like a Triangle.  

  • You have now made what Origami Specialists call the “Waterbomb Base” on the top part of your card.  It will look like a triangle

11. Fold the bottom right corner of your triangle up to the apex of the pyramid.

12. Fold the bottom left corner of your triangle up to the apex of the pyramid.  

  • You will now have an equilateral diamond inside your triangle

13. Take the right side of the square and fold the inside edge out to match the fold.  This does not have to be perfect.

14. Repeat on the left side: take the left side of the square and fold the inside edge to match the fold

  • These are the front legs.

15. We are now going to “Close the cupboard doors” to make our tadpole tail on the bottom part of the frog.  It does not have to be perfect.  Fold the right edge of the remaining rectangle so that the folded edge of the triangle matches up with the folded edge of the square and the outside edge of the rectangle is more or less to the halfway point.

16. Repeat on the left side.  

17. Flip the frog over and go over all the creases from the top.

18. Flip it so that the front legs are up again.  

19. We are now going to zig-zag the tadpole tail into a bent leg. It won’t be split, but the frog will jump better this way. Fold the back legs back like the frog is doing a head over heels yoga move.  

20. Unfold that.

21. Roll the edges.  This part will DEFINITELY not look perfect, but it’s important.

22. Re-fold the yoga move.

23. Fold the back leg-unit, which is really only one leg, so that it sticks out a tiny bit. 

24. Pinch the end of the legs (where the feet would be if it had two legs).

25. Flip the frog right-side up. YOU ARE FINISHED!

You can make your frog hop with two fingers, or with one. How far can it go?

More Resources about frogs and their jumping and walking abilities:

An article with a neat video about frogs that crawl, which talks about the proportions of their legs and how that affects their movement preferences. (They can jump, they just don’t usually do it)

Images of the African Red Legged Running Frog, which jumps, runs, and climbs.

Another amphibian Physiology activity to learn more about frogs and how they move.

Images of Bumblebee toads, which apparently make great pets!

Berdmore’s Chorus Frog on Wikimedia

Images of Common toads

Spring 2001: Meditations and Transformations

Looking back on these works, they form a through line of spiritual seeking through process. In times like now, where the world is in suspended animation, a dose of specific process and ritual can be helpful. In what ways can I impose order on the simultaneous plodding of too fast and too slow?

These fledgling explorations of spiritual connection through internal or external processes formed the ground on which I sit: learning to navigate and impose routines and practices upon myself to manage the firehose of information that I am curious about and engaged with at any given moment.

Although the final work in the series, which I shared last week, was designed to invite participation, both of these works are focused internally, or at least on making personal internal processes external, just for me.

What I wrote at the time only scratches the surface of what I can see now looking backwards, so in addition to the captions from the red portfolio album, I’ve added some reflections, and included a third piece, which was not successfully documented at the time, but which connects to a tension in my work about embodied fashion.

Performance I: Copper Circle Clock

To draw attention to the tension of values that is inherent in the aesthetics of fine art in the western canon, I often choose materials that one would normally consider practical and re-cycle, re-purpose, or re-position them to an aesthetic rather than practical value.  In the world of the arts, materials matter.  Whether one chooses oil paint, pencil, charcoal, or fabric, there is something to be said for the way the material affects the viewer.  

Materials have cultural weight, and by repurposing hardware, I seek to show honor and value for labor in my creative practice.  

As the daughter of a college-educated union Ironworker, I value the beauty that is created by labor.  It’s one of the reasons that the buildings and bridges in Chicago were so inspirational.  Hands made them, and I value every stage of the process from idea and design, to re-bar and sand-blasting.  

In this work, I took washers and laid them out in a clock formation in the middle of the room and then twisted them successively on to loops on refrigerator tubing and large washers to create an artifact from the performance.  

In designing the work, I was considering the form that I imagined, an artifact which would leave a vertical tracing through time. Knitting or beading leave behind a structure, and the purpose is the product, for example a sweater or a necklace.  In this performance I created illustration of time itself by using fiber craft skills to engineer a purpose-made object that spirals up in a circle, with cardinal points to mark how we chart time on a clock.  

The most interesting piece of the work was the sound that the washers made, jingling and sliding along the copper tube.  It reminded me of my visit to the Buddhist temple in Japan when I was fourteen years old.  The rhythmic jingle was like the meditation bells and drums that the monks and practitioners made as they repeated their sutras.  

The finished object hung on my ceiling for awhile at home, jingling in the breeze of that summer with the window open reminding me about stopping and noticing time and process.  

Performance II: Rolling into Transformation

So many times when we consider changes we want to make in ourselves, we think we know what to expect, and yet, even in a simple action, there are often emotions and feelings that one does not anticipate.  Some are joyful, and some are frightening.  It is how one considers them that creates growth.  

This was a performance to externalize internal processes of wrapping and unwrapping emotions and thoughts during moments of change.  Conceptualized as a quick meditation on personal transformation, I cocooned myself into a cloth in Lincoln Park. 

The wrapping was more claustrophobic, and the unwrapping was more freeing than I expected it to be.  

The cloth was a sign leftover from an exhibit at the Field Museum, which I purchased at a re-use center and which my friends had taken to Burning Man.  Dust from the Playa, stuck in the cloth despite repeated washings, also stuck in my throat.  I can still feel the air as I finally came free, joyful to be out of that internal space. 

Performance III: Personal Space Farthingale (Undocumented)

The convenience of public transportation is huge, however, the process of entering a crowded train carrying a hatbox on one’s head on the way to the theatre can make one feel like a sardine.  

One tension I felt in Chicago was between that independence provided by public transportation and the dehumanizing feeling of being packed so close to other people, never looking one another in the eye, or looking too closely at one another as sometimes happens.  

To explore this, I attempted to create some personal space for myself with a PVC icosahedron farthingale, which I wore on the bus during one of our studio days.  It kept people from touching me, and its pointy triangles hurt both me and them.  The reaction I had was mostly stares, as if this personal safety device were more of a fetish object than armor.  

Unlike the washer mail I created, it does not invite touch, but the visibility of this armor meant that in wearing it, I still made myself an object of curiosity.  There is that tension in urban space between seeking to connect to others and wishing to remain safe and anonymous.  This work did not do exactly what I expected it to, but it created an interesting discourse about safety, desire, and space.  

Goings On About Town

Big things are in the works. Baby steps!!!

Though my drawing a day project has once again fizzled, I have in fact been making art nearly every day.  When I started the project, my intention was to do all kinds of work, showing progress, drawings, sketches, and finished work as it went on.

But as the project went on, my parameters got more and more narrow.  First, somehow, I decided it had to be a drawing. Then I decided it had to be a drawing on a particular size of paper.  But as an artist, I’m all over the place.  I do several bodies of work in several media all the time.  All those limitations are not how I work, but somehow I talked myself slowly into that consistency and regularity.

Some of the work that I do as an artist is less photographic.  Like the above shot, a photogenic rearrangement of something much less exciting to look at: making the “paints” for my “paintbox.”  Each sheet has to be torn and in order to use them more efficiently be rolled into a ball so when it comes to making the carpet, no detangling is needed.

In any case, I wanted to outline for you some of what I’ve been working on, though each of these things will get more attention as time goes on this summer, perhaps you would like to know the whole list of “what’s up” in Adventurous Art land.

Recycle Ann Arbor had an Earth Day Art Contest, and my “Sun Rug” was selected to be a finalist.  Though the turnout was small, I stuck around for the Public Reception and made some good connections to people in the community.

My small success in that contest persuaded me to shoot higher and I’ve been working on a proposal for a larger series of rag carpets to be displayed in narrative series from Cloud, to Rain, to Rainbow, to Sun.  The first proposal contains some mistakes and omissions, so we will see.  In either case, I’m excited about the project and you will see some progress shots soon.

One person I met through the program was the Outreach and Zero-Waste coordinator for RAA with whom I’m coordinating the translation of some of their materials about how to recycle in Ann Arbor into Spanish.  It’s cool to get to do some translation work, if only as a volunteer.

She also introduced me to someone at the Ecology Center, and I’m volunteering with them to do an interactive recycled art table at the Eco-Ride on June 23 at Riverside Park in Ann Arbor.  Yes, Ann Arbor, not Ypsi.  I’m going to do a whole entry about this since I made them a video and I think you’ll enjoy our project, even if you can’t attend the Eco-Ride.

Another of the people I met through the Recycle Ann Arbor Earth Day Contest was the director of FLY Art Center, an Ypsi organization that does outreach to under-served public school children.  We met up and I’m going to teach some “Studio Skills” classes (one about no-sew upcycled t-shirts, and one about rag rug coasters or placemats), and do some volunteering for them in their outreach and public programs.