Kindergarten - Visual Arts - Lesson 15 - Calder Mobile


Review the meaning of the term sculpture.

Look closely at mobile as a kind of sculpture.

Compare ways of creating sculpture: carving away or modeling vs. building or constructing.

Make plans for constructing a class mobile.


Slide of Alexander Calder's mobile Three Big Dots, 1963

Slide of Triumph of Bacchus (#13 in plastic sleeve)

Slide of St. Elzear Healing the Lepers (#14 in plastic sleeve)

Suggested Book

Kalman, Maira. Roarr: Calder's Circus. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art & Delacorte Press, 1993.

Calder's circus, as it appeared in 1970 at the Whitney Museum, is photographed in color and printed on black paper. The text is as wild and wonderful as Calder's circus figures. This would be great for reading aloud and showing the pictures to the children.

Background for Teacher (Alexander Calder 1898-1976)

The quantity of black and white photographs we have of Alexander Calder in one or another of the studios he worked in during his lifetime show him to be a playful pack rat of an artist. (See for example the endpapers at the front of the book suggested above.) His father and grandfather before him had been well-known sculptors, and his mother a painter, but he set out to be a mechanical engineer, graduating from the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. It wasn't until he had held several jobs in his field that he decided he really wanted to be an artist and began to study at the Art Students League in New York.

During the 1920s Calder went to live and study painting in Paris, which was at that time the most exciting place for painters to gather. It was during this period that he began to combine his artistic and engineering gifts. Calder experimented with building toys, gadgets, and especially circus figures, the latter because he had fallen in love with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. From then on, Calder constructed complete circuses and gave performances with them for his friends and acquaintances. The book suggested above shows photographs of one of Calder's complete circuses that is now housed at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York.

Eventually Calder's engineering and artistic talents resulted in the sculptures he is most famous for, which he called mobiles at the suggestion of his friend and fellow artist Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp was struck by the fact that Calder was creating sculpture that moved. At first the sculptures incorporated motors to keep them in motion, but eventually Calder figured out ways to allow the careful balancing of the parts to result in their being moved simply by the wind. He also created stabiles, which are sculptures made of huge pieces of metal that are themselves stationary, but people can move around inside as well as outside of them.


Kindergarten - Visual Arts - Lesson 15 - Calder Mobile


Tell the children that you are going to show them a different kind of sculpture today. Ask: Who remembers something about sculpture? What can you tell me about the difference between painting and sculpture? (The children may recall some of the pieces of sculpture they have already looked at--Statue of Liberty, Mt. Rushmore, Triumph of Bacchus, and St. Elzear of Saban Healing the Lepers. They might also tell you something more generic about painting and sculpture. Accept any answer that furthers a discussion.)

Ask: What are some of the materials we've seen used for sculpture? (stone, marble, metal, copper) What about the kinds of tools the artists used to make those pieces of sculpture? (drills, jackhammers, chisels, hammers, etc.)

Show the children the two slides of sculpture they saw last month (The Triumph of Bacchus and St. Elzear Healing the Lepers).As they look at them, point out that for both of these sculptures, the artist had to cut away part of the stone in order to form the sculpture. It was a process of using sharp tools like hammer and chisel to cut into the material and form the figures of the sculpture.

Next show the children the slide of Calder's Three Big Dots. Tell them that this is a sculpture created by an American artist named Alexander Calder who died about twenty years ago. Ask: What kind of material do you think this sculpture is made of? (metal) How do you think Calder made this sculpture? (put pieces of metal together with strong wire) So what kinds of tools do you think he used? (pliers, metal saw, etc.) What do you think is very different about Calder's sculpture compared to the other sculpture we've looked at? (Accept any reasonable answer.)

Tell the children that this sculpture is called Three Big Dots and it is hanging in the Baltimore Museum of Art. Ask someone to point out on the screen which are the three big dots and ask why they think Calder gave the sculpture that name (probably for fun). Tell them that Calder had a lot of fun making his sculpture, that there are Calder sculptures in museums all over the world, and that they are called mobiles. Ask: Can anyone guess why these wonderful inventions of Calder are called mobiles? (They move.) What do you think makes them move? (air, wind)

Ask whether they like the mobile, why or why not, and tell them that at the next lesson they are going to create a class mobile. Say: I'd like each person to bring in a small object that you have found and would like to make part of our mobile. It could be a bottle top, a pencil, a piece of sea glass, a bird feather, almost anything that you think would be a good contribution to a mobile and would be light enough to be moved by the wind.

If you have access to Maira Kalman's book Roarr: Calder's Circus suggested above, read it to the children and tell them about his love for the circus. Ask whether they can think of a way that trapeze artists and gymnasts in the circus are like Calder's mobiles (move in air, balance, seem to float).


Kindergarten - Visual Arts - Lesson 16 - Making a Mobile


Begin a class mobile from found objects.

Experiment with balancing objects in order to construct a mobile.

Observe the difficulties of balance in constructing a mobile.


Slide of Calder's Three Big Dots

Pictures of mobiles and stabiles from books and/or magazines

Heavy wire, about 3 ft. or several metal hangers to use as supports

Wire cutting tools, long-nose pliers

String, narrow paper "ribbon" (the kind that we often curl with scissors) and/or fine picture- hanging wire to attach individual found objects

Objects brought to class by students to contribute to mobile


Show the children the slide of the Calder mobile and ask: What do we call these moving sculptures that Calder invented? (mobiles) Review the fact that while most sculpture they have seen before was made by cutting away rock, stone, clay to create the forms and figures, Calder's mobiles are made in a different way? Ask: How did Calder create his sculptures? (Accept any answers that indicate that the children understand that mobiles are constructed by putting several pieces together.)

If you have pictures of other mobiles show them to the children now. Next show them some pictures of stabiles, giving them the name to pronounce and telling them that Calder was also the first artist to explore making stabiles. Ask: What do you suppose is the difference between stabiles and mobiles? (Stabiles don't move, and mobiles do.) Say: Stabiles don't move, but they are still a lot of fun, because they are usually made out of giant sized pieces, and you can walk not only all around them but through and inside of them as well. Say: Many big buildings in our cities have stabiles outside of them for sculpture. Has anyone ever seen one? Let the children tell their experiences and remembrances of stabiles.

Next ask: What problem can you think of that we will have making our mobile that an artist doesn't have when making a stabile? (balancing things) Show them the pictures of mobiles again, pointing out that while the pieces in a mobile do not all have to be of equal size and shape, the mobile must be in balance in order to hang properly and in order to move. Ask: So, what is the biggest problem in making a mobile? (balance)

Have the children bring their objects around a large work surface and help them to explore different arrangements and possibilities of making the objects balance. You will have to build the framework, but if you use string to attach the objects, the children may be able to attach pieces of precut string (or narrow paper "ribbon") for you to hang on the frame or frames you have created. After experimenting with different solutions to the problem of balance, have the children leave their objects with strings attached and tell them you will finish the mobile and show them how you worked out the balance. It may turn out that you end up with several mobiles in order accomodate the number and variety of found objects the children have contributed.


Kindergarten - Art/Craft - April


Review the continent of Australia.

Review the Aboriginal people of Australia.

Participate in an Aboriginal craft activity.


A collection of brown paper bags from which a 9" x 12" section can be cut (one section per child)

Red, yellow, black, and white crayons

Examples of Aboriginal artwork (See History/Geography Lesson 29 for suggested sources)

Teacher Note: This lesson should be taught following History/Geography Lesson 29.

Teacher Information

The art of the Australian Aborigines includes rock paintings, painted objects, engravings on weapons and tools, and bark paintings. The most striking works of Aboriginal art are the cave paintings, found by the thousands, across northern Australia. Some are believed to be more than 5,000 years old.

Bark paintings were first used as decorations for the interiors of Aborigine shelters along the seacoasts. The paintings were made mostly from eucalyptus bark that had been dried and flattened. Red, yellow, black and white are the colors used by the Aborigines as these are colors that can be obtained from nature. Red and yellow come from ocher in the earth, white from chalk, and black from charcoal. The art styles vary from region to region. Huge, spooky-looking figures painted white with black eyes and black noses but no mouths are common to the tribes of the northwest. In western Australia are paintings unlike any others in the world. These "X-ray" paintings are of animals, birds, fish, and reptiles. They show not only the bodies of these creatures, but their skeletons and internal organs. Walpiri Aborigines of today paint bright pictures with acrylics. Dots, zigzags, and circles provide a direct link to Aboriginal traditions and religion as each painting is the result of a collaboration of family members.

The following craft lesson is from Mailbox Magazine, Primary, June/July 1995.


Review the continent of Australia. Children should be firm about its location and should have knowledge about the people who live there. Ask: Do you remember what the earliest settlers to Australia are called? (Aborigines) Say: The Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for a very long time. (Show pictures of the Aboriginal people.) Ask: Do you remember the name of the throwing stick used by the Aborigines that returns to the person that threw it? (boomerang)

Say: Today we are going to learn about the art work of the Aboriginal people. (Show examples of the artwork.) Say: Aborigine artwork can be found on tools and weapons, on rocks and in caves, and on tree bark. Tree bark was dried and flattened and then painted upon with colors found in nature. The Aborigines used red and yellow colors of soil that is like clay, white from chalk, and black from charcoal. The chalk was not like the chalk we use in on the chalkboard, and the charcoal was not like the little bricks used in barbeque grills. The chalk and charcoal used by the Aborigines came from the ground.


Kindergarten - Art/Craft - April

Say: We are going to make bark paintings like the Aborigine's. Instead of using paint we will use crayons and instead of tree bark we will use brown paper bags.

Distribute the brown paper bag sections.

Say: Let's think of some of the animals that live in Australia. Ask: Who can name an Australian animal? (Review History/Geography Lesson 28. The teacher may wish to draw simple sketches on the chalkboard of the animals named.) Say: Choose one of the animals of Australia for your bark painting.

Instruct the children to draw the animal on the brown bag section. Direct them to use the four colors listed above to color the animal. They may wish to divide the animal into four sections and color each of the sections one of the four colors. The animal drawing may be outlined in one color and colored in with another of the four colors. When the children have completed the coloring, instruct them to crumple and flatten the paper bag again and again until it is soft and wrinkled like a tree bark might be. Display the children's Aboriginal artwork.


Kindergarten - Art/Craft - April


Review that plants grow from seeds.

Participate in a craft project.

Listen to the poem Tommy.


A variety of seeds (dried peas, beans, lentils, sunflowers, pumpkins, etc.)

A cardboard square (5 x 5) one per student

A paper square (5 x 5) any color, one per student

White glue

Clear art varnish (optional)

Teacher Note: This lesson should be taught following Science Lesson 36.


Display the seeds. Ask: Do you remember what these are called? (seeds) Ask: What happens to seeds when they are planted in the ground? (They will grow.) Firm up that different seeds produce different plants.

Say: Today we are going to make seed pictures.

Distribute the paper squares and a collection of seeds to each student. Direct the children to place the seeds on the paper squares in a way that is pleasing to them. They may wish to create an abstract design or an actual scene. Encourage the children to move the seeds around in different ways to achieve different results.

When the final arrangement has been decided, distribute the cardboard squares. Instruct the students to thinly spread white glue on the cardboard, then transfer the arrangement of seeds from the paper square onto the glue surface of the cardboard square. Seeds should only be one layer thick.

The finished project can be sprayed with clear art varnish or painted with diluted white glue to keep them in place and add luster. Allow plenty of time for the project to dry.

Read the  poem to the children.