Forces and Motion: A Mobile (with soft wire)

Arts Integration Residency with Montalvo Arts Center – in Campbell, CA.
I did this Unit in four elementary schools:
– Sherman Oaks Elementary (Spring 2015)
– Capri Elementary (Fall 2014)
– Village Elementary (Spring 2013)
– Lynhaven Elementary (Spring 2013)

A Mobile inspired by the work of Alexander Calder, American sculptor, inventor of the mobile.

Brief Description
This project engage students in the process of making a balanced kinetic sculpture.

The way to change how something is moving is by giving it a push or a pull. The size of the change is related to the strength, or the amount of force, of the push or pull.

Science – Force: gravity, push, friction, motion
Art – Calder, mobile, kinetic sculpture

How long you will need: 2 hours including setup and cleanup.
Where to do it: any space.
How to group the students: individually.
What to know – tips and precautions: remind students to be careful with the wires as they can poke.
– cut the sharp tips of the bamboo skewers with a clipper.
– Prepare a 9″ piece of wire for each student (Panacea Wire Stem 18″ 20Ga Bright pack of 30pc). Cut the 18″ piece in two, create 4 loops with nose pliers, do not put any loop right in the center (the balance will be more interesting to find for the student). The student will attach the cotton string piece either in loop #2 or #3.

– Cut the colored and the black cardstock in 2 – make half letter size pieces and organize the colors on a separate table so that the students will be able to pick the pieces they need as they work on their mobile.
– cut 10″ pieces of cotton string
Put on the tables for each students: one bamboo skewer, one twisteez (soft wire), one 10″ cotton string, one piece of black cardstock, one brown bag, one piece of duct tape, one piece of metal wire ready to hang.

Keep more of everything on the side if students need more material.

Materials per students: a brown lunch bag, 2 , colored cardstock, a piece of string, a bamboo skewer (Safeway), a metal wire
Tools: scissors, glue sticks, liquid Elmer glue, hole punchers, duct tape, sharpies.

Session 1

1. Short video about Calder’s work in which we see the mobiles in action.

2. Ask all the students to come close to you. Give a short demo on how to tape the bamboo skewer on the table, how to tie the string to the skewer and how to attach the metal piece to the string.

Explain how to make the mobile, showing the difference between a Calder’s mobile (you can draw on the white board or show a slide) – which “branches out” and a crib mobile which hangs straight down. Branching out is more difficult that just hang elements. That’s the challenge. The pieces of Tweesties will have different lengths, and the balance will be found through different tries with the shapes (the more you add paper, the heavier it gets).

Put the chairs away from the tables – the students will need space.
3. Building the mobile

First, the students write their name on the lunch bags. Ask the students to tape the bamboo skewer on the edge of their table. Then they attach the string to the bamboo skewer. Now they have their base to work on their mobile. They can work their wires and their shapes.

At the end of the session, each student put all the elements he used in the brown bag except for the pieces of duct tape that the teacher will collect to use during the next session.

4. Cleanup

Session 2

1. Continuing and finishing the mobile.
2. Cleanup
3. Discussion – Each student talk about the difficulties he/she encounter to find the balance, and how he/she found different solutions to overcome them.