How to Make Paper Plants


By Martha Hall, Summer 2016 Inspire(d) Intern

Fall is coming, and the leaves will soon turn brown– but these plants will last all year long. These fun paper plants add pops of color to any space and require no maintenance. Simply print out our templates on cardstock and you’re ready to go!

What you’ll need:

Cardstock, scissors, hot glue gun, colored pencils/markers/crayons, lentils or rice, and 3 plant pots (candle votives also work well).

Print out these plant templates on colorful cardstock of your choosing:
Leafy Plant Template
Medium Cactus Template
Tall Cactus Template

PlantMaterialsBefore you start, put the lentils or rice in your container. This acts like the soil for the plants!


Leafy Plant

20160813_2320 copyCut along the black lines to cut out the leaves.

LeafFoldingOnce all the leaves are cut out, fold them vertically in the middle. This helps the leaves’ stability and makes them look more realistic.

ColoringLeavesColor your leaves! You can follow the fold down the middle of the leaf to make it symmetrical or make your own fun design.

PlantLeavesStart putting the largest leaves around the rim of the container. The smaller leaves go in the middle of the container.

FinishedPaperPlantMess with the leaves until you like the arrangement (it’s just like arranging flowers) and you’re done!


Small Cactus

CuttingCactusCut out the cactus pieces along the black lines. Make sure to cut along the black line in the middle– this is where the two pieces connect.

CactusSpinesDraw on both sides of the cactus pieces. I drew little spines!

Cactus_AssemblyTime to put the cactus together! Take the piece with the cut from the middle to bottom and place it into the slit of the other piece.

GluingCactusPut the cactus in the container, burying the bottom of it into the lentils or rice. Adding a dot of hot glue in between the pieces at the top helps the cactus retain its shape and stay stable.

foldTime to make the flowers! Fold a small square piece of paper in half both ways (horizontally and vertically). Unfold it, then fold it horizontally on the fold you already created.

FlowerFoldingPush the ends of the paper together, and you’ve got a little flower!

20160813_2403Add a dot of hot glue to the top of the cactus and press the flower on top of it.


Tall Cactus

20160813_2407Cut along the black lines and draw on both sides of the pieces.

20160813_2417Next, attach the two cactus pieces together by sliding the piece with the cut from the middle to bottom onto the slit of the other piece.

20160814_2272 (1)Add a drop of hot glue on the top of the cactus and place a flower on it. The flowers are the same as those for the smaller cactus. Add as many as you like!


Electing for Change: Why Vote?


By Aryn Henning Nichols

There are many boards, committees, and political offices that rely on local volunteers. And these positions do so much to guide how your community moves forward. Do you have opinions about things happening in your town? The answer is, very likely, yes. Why not get involved so you can make those opinions better known?

electing_votebuttonNot up for that? It’s cool! You know what’s super easy? Voting. Seriously – you can even get your ballot mailed to you (absentee ballots). And then – if you’re like me and aren’t sure about the lesser-publicized election contests – you can research each candidate and their platforms as you vote. Because it’s those contests down the ballot that often impact your lives and communities even more.

We are so lucky we live in a society where we get to vote – we Americans get a say in how our lives are run (even if it doesn’t always seem like it)! It’s pretty cool.

Looking for a quick and easy reference? Check out Enter your address and it will show you a sample ballot for 2016. Then you can click on the people running and learn what they’re all about. Then click on through to candidates own websites to learn more.

It feels great to make educated decisions, and it feels great to know more about topics that are important to local and state-level constituents. You are one of those constituents! Let your voices be heard, friends. And not just every four years! Pay attention, share your ideas, and together we can all make this community, region, state, country…world…a better place!

XOXO – Aryn

Electing for Change: John Beard

electing_johnbeardJohn Beard

If anyone can attest to the power of a single vote, it’s Decorah-based welder John Beard.

Four years ago, Beard, who currently sits on the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors, lost a hotly contested race for the District 28 Seat in the Iowa State Senate by a razor-thin margin – just 17 votes out of more than 29,000 cast separated him from the eventual victor, Michael Breitbach of Strawberry Point.

“Every vote counts, absolutely,” he says, reflecting on that outcome. “We can never forget the importance of a single vote and the power of public opinion.”

Beard, a Decorah native who spent much of his childhood in New Jersey, grew up discussing politics over the family dinner table. But it wasn’t until 2002 – when Decorah was embroiled in a heated debate over whether to renovate or tear down its historic East Side School­ – that he mounted his first political campaign. While he lost his bid for a seat on the local school board that year, he emerged from the experience convinced that he had contributed positively to the public discourse.

“I really tried to help people think and act more respectfully, and I was given recognition for that from both sides,” says Beard. “That, coupled with a great experience serving as president of Winneshiek Pheasants Forever, made me believe that I could have a positive effect in public office if given a chance.”

electingforchange_logoArea voters gave him that chance in 2008, when they elected him to serve a two-year term in the Iowa House of Representatives. Beard worked hard to cultivate positive relationships with peers in both parties but nonetheless lost his bid for reelection two years later. “I was definitely hoping to build on those relationships to do more,” he says. “We have a great democratic process, but that process does require cooperation, compromise, and respect for one another in order to function at its best.”

In 2014, Beard threw his hat into the ring yet again, this time landing a four-year seat on the five-person Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors, the county’s policy-making body. “We have a function in all aspects of county government and entities that work with county government,” he says, likening the work to running a big business. “We oversee the budget for things like secondary roads and public health, respond to our constituents’ concerns, and plan proactively to ensure that our transportation and utilities are adequate, that our green areas are protected.”

It’s work he thoroughly enjoys.

“What I find so refreshing about working with this group is that there is not even a whiff of partisanship in the board room, “says Beard, the District One representative to the board, which meets Monday mornings year-round. “We have spirited disagreements about things, but they are not along political or ideological lines, and in the end we always get something done, and almost always with a unanimous vote.”

Ask Beard what he loves most about Winneshiek County, and he’s unable to cite just one thing. It’s spending time with his family, including his wife, RoJene; his son, Chance; and his siblings, Daniel and Barbara. It’s exploring the area’s bountiful natural beauty, including the Upper Iowa River and the surrounding bluffs. And it’s learning from the area’s residents ­– in other words, his constituents. “I have traveled throughout the United States, and I have found that some of the best read and most cosmopolitan people live here,” he says. “There’s an open-mindedness, a healthy intellectual curiosity, and I am very much drawn to that.”