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Out & About: Hanover High student starts origami nonprofit

  • Hanover High School junior Sophie Usherwood folds "Closed Rose Dodecahedron," an origami design by Dr. Robert Lang. (Photograph courtesy of Sophie Usherwood)

  • Hanover High School junior Sophie Usherwood won the Origami by Children Competition at OrigamiUSA in 2020 with her piece "Square Sunflower and Butterflies." (Sophie Usherwood photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/29/2020 9:14:23 PM
Modified: 4/29/2020 9:14:18 PM

HANOVER — Once she folded her first origami frog in kindergarten, Sophie Usherwood was hooked.

“I like how you don’t need any tools. You just need knowledge and a piece of paper,” said Usherwood, a Hanover High School junior. “It’s very liberating to be able to create things without extensive equipment.”

By the time she was in seventh grade, Usherwood was using origami to volunteer throughout the community. She’s taught students at Richmond Middle School about geometry and worked with senior citizens who have dementia at Kendal at Hanover. Usherwood has seen firsthand the therapeutic, educational and emotional benefits origami can have on those who practice it.

When children who use origami to learn geometric principles, for example, they may find difficult concepts easier to grasp.

“They find it fun. They don’t see it as work,” Usherwood said of the middle school students she has taught.

During New Hampshire’s stay-at-home order, Usherwood has been filming origami tutorial videos for the Howe Library. Learning a new activity can also help people who need a little cheering up.

“Origami helps to raise people’s spirits,” Usherwood said. “I’ve noticed because people focus all their attention on making a model and when they finish, they have a final result they can actually hold and see.”

Last week, Usherwood started a nonprofit organization called Folding for the Future to help origami clubs around the country — and around the world — to connect and assist each other in their volunteer endeavors.

“The goal is to encourage community groups to volunteer in their own communities,” said Usherwood, who has won the Origami by Children Competition at OrigamiUSA multiple times. “They can all look at this and be inspired by other clubs.”

While Usherwood had been making plans to start Folding for the Future for a while, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Usherwood to launch it earlier.

“We’re so isolated because we have to be in quarantine, so I thought it would be really helpful for people to connect online,” she said.

Usherwood has support from OrigamiUSA, a nonprofit organization that has published four books she has written. When origami clubs become part of Folding for the Future, they receive copies of Enhancing Mathematics with Origami: Proofs by Folding, Teaching Origami to Children: A Playful Diversion, Teaching Origami to Adult Seniors: A Therapeutic Meditation and Donating Origami to Hospitals: A Charming Gift to assist with their volunteer work.

As of Wednesday, 24 origami clubs have joined Folding for the Future, representing 14 states and five countries.

“I think perseverance and flexibility are the two main things that can help you in origami or anything else in life,” Usherwood said. “Even if you get confused the first time, if you just keep trying you’ll get there in the end.”

Editor’s note: For more information about Folding for the Future, visit https://foldingourfuture.wixsite.com/origami.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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