5th Grade – Alexander Calder and Kinetic Sculptures

5th Grade – Alexander Calder and Kinetic Sculptures

Description of the Unit –

Students will explore the whimsical, yet ordered and divinely balanced kinetic sculptures of Alexander Calder, using his work as inspiration for their own kinetic sculpture.  

Alexander Calder working on one of his kinetic sculptures, and his piece Antenna, 1940

Activity statement –

Kinetic art is “art that contains movement perceivable by the viewer or depends on motion for its effect” ª https://mymodernmet.com/kinetic-sculpture-art-history/). Alexander Calder revolutionized the kinetic sculpture, making mobile or free-standing sculptures that could move depending on the air currents. His sculptures featured organic, playful abstract shapes, yet were placed in such a way so as to be able to perfectly balance. Students will engineer their own kinetic sculpture that must be able to stand freely, balance, and yet move slightly. The pieces they create for the sculpture should also be abstract, organic shapes.

Goals – Students should…

Understand:

  • What is meant by kinetic art

Know:

  • Who Alexander Calder was and why he was important
  • The term abstract and the term organic when used to describe shape

Be able to:

  • Recognize Calder’s work
  • Describe kinetic art
  • Make their own free-standing kinetic sculpture

Objectives –

Students will:

  • Explore the work of Alexander Calder, especially his kinetic sculptures
  • Discuss Calder’s use of shape, symmetry vs. asymmetry, balance, abstract/organic shapes and movement
  • Integrate shape, balance and movement into one kinetic sculpture

Resources and materials –

  • Exemplars of Calder’s kinetic sculptures
  • Recycled objects that can serve as a steady base for each student’s sculpture
  • Wire of a heavy enough gauge to hold up extended pieces
  • Thin cardboard for extended shapes
  • Paint in a variety of colors plus black and white
  • Brushes
  • Cups
  • Tablecloths
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Glue

Questions –

  • What do you notice about this (any of Calder’s) sculpture?
  • Do you imagine this sculpture is able to move?
  • What do you notice about the shapes he uses?
  • What do you notice about the colors Calder uses?
  • What do these sculptures make you think of?
  • How do you think Calder balances his sculptures?

Evaluation –

Did students:

Understand and describe the meaning of kinetic art?

Begin to recognize the key characteristics of Calder’s work?

Integrate deliberate use of shape, balance and movement in a free standing, kinetic sculpture?

Informal:

  • Group discussions
  • Oral responses to essential questions
  • Personal focus and risk-taking
  • One finished sculpture
5th grade: kinetic sculptures inspired by Alexander Calder
5th grade: kinetic sculptures inspired by Alexander Calder
5th grade: kinetic sculptures inspired by Alexander Calder
5th grade: kinetic sculptures inspired by Alexander Calder

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