Mobiles (2nd)

For this lesson we began by looking at a Powerpoint showing some of the work of sculpture artist Alexander Calder. We looked at some of his early work (like from when he was only 4 years old!!)... to his later more elegant and sizable pieces. We talked about how he took great interest in creating sculptures that could move (kinetic sculptures) -- including mobiles (a type of kinetic sculpture that Alexander Calder actually invented!). Students noted Calder's use of material choices, abstracted style, and building method (some mobiles were grounded, while others hung from a fixed point on the ceiling).
Student's also checked out this linked video to watch one of Calder's pieces in action!
Then as a class we discussed how difficult creating a mobile might actually be because the artist REALLY has to take into account the weight of the objects he/she hangs off of each branch section to keep it balanced. We also talked about how the distributed weight on branches had to be spread out a certain way too (and found that having a central hanging point was the most efficient way to distribute weight). **This part of the lesson also lends itself to being a GREAT math-integration section. Students discuss ideas of weight/volume, size, proportion, symmetry, etc.

I then showed students this linked interactive website from the National Gallery of Art.
The site features an interactive 'Mobile Maker' in which students can create their own digital mobiles by selecting branches, hanging pieces, and trying to properly balance and distribute weight.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this website and the kids do too! So much so that I demoed how to use the website one day, then took the kids to the computer lab the next day to play around with it. What an AMAZING interactive tool and great use of technology!

The following day students began creating their own real symbolic paper mobiles. Students were given a paper plate which was to be colored completely using crayons (both sides!) in a way that represented them-self (for example coloring your plate really colorful might tell me that you are a bright and exciting person). Once the plate was completed I helped students by making a spiral cut to the center of their plate and punched a hole in the middle part (to attach a central hanging string from). This paper plate would become the central radial branch from which all symbols would be hung (we decided the day before that having a center point of gravity was the easiest way to balance a mobile).

The next day students were given a sheet of scratch paper on which they wrote the numbers 1-4. Students were then asked to think of 4 different symbols which they could use to represent themselves or something about them-self. For example, on my mobile I hung a picture of a mitten because I am originally from Canada where in the winter it snows a lot. I also had a drawing of a can of pink paint because painting is one of my favorite activities to do and I'm an art teacher. The idea was that students would choose 4 symbols so that if I saw their mobile, I could learn something about who they are. *Great way to incorporate writing! You could have students write more about their symbols and why they thought they would be good symbols for themselves.
Students were then given a strip of leftover watercolor paper I had from a fourth grade project I did a while back (however any kind of thicker paper - like cardstock - would work just fine). Students folded this strip in half once and then in half a second time (to create 4 sections). Using pencil students drew their symbols onto each section (front and back - it is a 3-d sculpture after all!). Once their drawings were done, they outlined their images with sharpie, and then colored them in with color sticks. Once they were done drawing/coloring their symbols, they were cut out.

The next day students were given hole-punchers at their table and were asked to punch holes on the top of their symbols and somewhere along their paper plate (the exact location was chosen by them and how they wanted to distribute their symbols along their central branch). I then called students up to select 5 pieces of pre-cut yarn to use to tie their symbols onto their branches. I also had beads available in case students wanted to add a little more flair to their pieces. *It was very important to explain to students why they needed to make double-knots when tying (so symbols wouldn't come loose and fall off!).

Overall I'm quite happy with how these have turned out! They are so bright and colorful and the students have really been super engaged with the whole process! This is one of those projects I can't wait to teach to my next group next week!


  1. These are terrific! Great lesson plan.

  2. Oh my GOSH! I love these so much. I am pinning and doing this next year with second grade!

  3. I think I'll try this next week! Thanks!