Beautiful Symmetry

Welcome to PLIX Beautiful Symmetry! Explore a branch of mathematics that's profound, yet accessible to creative learners.

🥰 For all ages! 🕐 1–1.5 Hours 👩‍👧‍👦 up to 15 Participants 🍎 1–2 Facilitators 🎨 Craft Materials 💻 Scratch Coding

Beautiful Symmetry adopts symmetry as a foundation around which to create works of art and functional materials in physical and digital formats.

Workshop Prompts & Example Gallery

Symmetry found in the natural world.
Symmetry found in the natural world.

Patterns created by hand-carving potato stamps.
Patterns created by hand-carving potato stamps.
Unicode creating patterns in spreadsheets!
Unicode creating patterns in spreadsheets!
A radial symmetry drawing interface using Scratch.
A radial symmetry drawing interface using Scratch.

Prompts from PLIX

Play with Patterns Design a textile, gift wrap, or wallpaper pattern using customized stamps.
Organic Collage Build a sculpture or tapestry using symmetrical elements found in the environment.
Forms and Functions Explore the built and natural worlds to capture imagery of the way symmetry provides form and function.
Model the infinite  Make patterns with algorithms (in Scratch, in a spreadsheet, or on paper) or by printing continuous patterns with cylindrical roller stamps.

PLIX Community Remixes

Snowflakes Make snowflake designs with folded paper in this activity shared by Francesca Passiglia (Greenfield, MA).
Frieze! It’s a Beautiful Symmetry Update your beautiful symmetry activity with inspiration from architecture, shared by Melissa Sprenne (Richland, SC).
Check out more examples and experiences from other librarians on the PLIX Forum Beautiful Symmetry space

PLIX Community Book Connections

Beautiful Symmetry by Alex Berke Ages 8+

Seeing Symmetry by Loreen Leedy Ages 5+ Recommended by Clara Hendricks (Cambridge Public Library)



Supply Kit

Below you'll find some materials that we've found work well for this activity, but it's not necessary to have them all! The prompt you'll explore determines what materials you'll want to have on hand.

Cut & assembled Beautiful Symmetry zines 1 per participant
Paper, with or without grids; generate a wide variety of styles at Griddzly
Large sheets/rolls of butcher paper for wrapping or wallpaper
Markers, colored pencils, or crayons
Stencils/cookie cutters
Stamp pads and rubber stamps or erasers/potatoes/sponges to carve
For roller stamps: paper towel or toilet paper tubes and items to attach rubber bands, foam pieces, etc.
Laptops/computer access if using Scratch or making spreadsheet art
Optional: PLIX Beautiful Symmetry Pattern Grid & Tiles tiles printed & cut, with base grids printed 1 set per participant


Zine ↓

PLIX zines are a supplementary resource for patrons and librarians to refer to. Use our guide to cut and assemble them.

Remixable zine ↓

Love our zine, but it doesn’t fit your adaptation of the activity? Remix our zine with this Google Slides template!

Grid Paper ↓



Playtest and Plan

Remember: There’s no one right way to prepare for a workshop. Use these steps as a loose guideline for planning to run this activity.

  1. Choose one of our prompts, or come up with a prompt that suits your library community. Our activity guides are for getting you started—feel free to change or create new design elements to suit your local community! All PLIX activity guides are designed for a minimum of 1–2 facilitators
  2. Gather materials and print out the zine.
  3. Make an example project. Try it out with friends and colleagues. Thoughtfully incomplete, good examples feature a variety of approaches and starting points. Use them to inspire learners to make something uniquely their own. Guide to Making Activity Examples
  4. Try the activity with your patrons. Set a date and time. Easily promote your workshop with our editable Beautiful Symmetry flyer template
  5. Populate your workshop space with diverse example projects. Create and play together!
  6. Reflect on what you’ve done and consider doing a remix!

Share your remix—Did you come up with new prompts? Share your ideas with your peers on the PLIX Forum. Try our Remix Share-Out template if you’d like us to feature your remix!

Facilitation Tips

Since there are many ways to explore symmetry, patrons may need some guidance in how or where to get started. When facilitating this activity, we encourage you to support a tinkering mindset, and consider the following to culture a creative learning environment. Check out our general PLIX Facilitation Techniques

🌐 Think globally, inspire locally.

Consider having examples on-hand that reflect the cultural diversity of your community. Symmetrical patterns appear in a wide range of textiles, ceramics, wall patterns, tapestries, and from every continent and islands around the world.

🌊 Know the depth.

While the concept of symmetry and pattern is something learners often encounter in preschool, the domain has a very high ceiling in mathematics research. You won't want to dive into the technical jargon, but it may be helpful to point out to participants to areas where the field of symmetry is relevant: facial recognition, meshes, 3-D modeling, algorithmic art

Dive deeper into creative learning facilitation with our Self-Guided Mini Course. It’ll also help you get started running your first PLIX workshop.

About PLIX Beautiful Symmetry

This activity was developed in collaboration with Jean Slavkovsky (Malden Public Library, Massachusetts), Claudia Haines (Homer Public Library, Alaska), and Alex Berke (MIT Media Lab graduate student) as part of the PLIX Co-Design program, in which Media Lab researchers team up with public librarians to create new PLIX programming.

Other ways to engage with the PLIX Beautiful Symmetry activity:

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