Tri-fold displays have long been a staple at school fairs because of their simplicity and ease of manipulation. Most stories have three parts; a beginning, a middle and an end. Like a book, the tri-fold is naturally suited to tell a story from beginning to end. But the best bookbinder cannot rescue a bad story. You are the author of your tri-fold project. Your task is to both tell a good story and use your tri-fold to illustrate it well.
Begin with something that you either know about or are interested in. Every project is a story and every story is enlivened by the enthusiasm of the storyteller. If you choose a project that bores you, it will probably bore your audience. Once you have chosen the story you want to tell, boil it down to the central points you want to convey. Decide how you will introduce your audience to the story, how you will conclude, and what is at the heart of it.
The Tri-Fold Presentation
Tri-fold projects often have a simple, left to right orientation. People read that way, so it is sound narration. Think in terms of the centre panel being the heart of the presentation. Your project will rise or fall most on what you do at the heart of it. The left panel should be designed to draw people in, set up your premise, and introduce them to what you are doing at the centre. The right panel should tell them what you did, what it means, and how to get more information on your subject.
For a science project, use the centre to display the principle you are illustrating. For example, a project on how electricity works could begin with the left panel explaining the principles. In the centre, put an obvious display of a simple switch to turn on a light bulb connected to a battery. To surprise people who try the switch, have it wired to several other LED lights and gadgets that are attached to the centre panel, so that they also light up when the switch is connected. On the right panel, put great moments in electricity, such as Ben Franklin with his kite and Thomas Edison with his light bulb. Make it interactive when you can to draw the viewer in.
Social studies projects
Use the same narrative technique, but consider making the centre panel into a diorama. For example, in a tri-fold about dinosaurs, use the centre panel to paint a background scene. In front of it, make a hillside scene of model dinosaurs roaming over fields and hills. With a little ingenuity, you can include a dinosaur watering hole in the diorama. Use the left panel to explain the periods when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the right panel to illustrate information about different types of dinosaurs.
You can use a tri-fold to give life to any subject you choose to display. For example, to do a tri-fold on a particular author, use the left panel to present a brief biography. On the centre panel, do a survey of the times she lived in and important events that happened during her lifetime. In front of that, where you would put the diorama in a social studies display, place a copy of her book and a few items associated with her or her times. On the right panel, do a list of her most important works with information on how they were received in her lifetime and since. The important thing is to get the story you want to tell with your tri-fold down on paper first, so you know exactly what to do before you begin working on the display.
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