Anitra Redlefsen
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home > Learning Activities and Art Projects > Earth Week Learning Activities and Art Projects > Activity

EARTH WEEK LEARNING ACTIVITY ~ Thingamajig (Recycled Steel Can Art Project!)

Grade(s): Pre- K-5

Project Length: One classroom period

Content Areas: Science and Visual Art

Art Project Description:

With this art project, students are provided with a steel can, magnets, magnetic items (hardware, paper clips, etc.) and colorful non-magnetic items that can be affixed to the can with magnets. Students are encouraged to be creative and to explore a variety of materials with which to create a unique assemblage!

Art Project Goals: By the end of this art project, students will know and be able to:
  1. Understand the importance of recycling to conserve resources and to protect our air, land and water.

  2. Understand the three dimensional art form of sculpture and in particular, assemblage.

  3. Look at and discuss several artists and their assemblage art works.

  4. Explore how magnets work.

  5. Create various shapes and designs using the magnetic and non-magnetic materials provided to create an assemblage.

  6. Further explore how this assemblage can be used as an interactive art piece that can be re-arranged or re-created over and over again.
  1. Discuss with students the importance of recycling and what kinds of things can be recycled. You can refer to the Earth Week Learning Activity. “What’s It Going to Be?” for more information.

  2. Discuss sculpture, assemblage and several assemblage artists. For example:

    Broken wine glass, Blue button, Metal ring, Nails , Wooden box, White paint

    Untitled (Ostend)
    Mixed Media
    7 ¾” x 13” x 14 1/8”
    Joseph Cornell
    American artist, 1903-1972

    Iron gate, Saw, Metal heart, Pitch fork, Shovel, Hatchet, Metal, Miscellaneous tools

    The Gate, Goodbye Vermont
    Wood, steel, tools, paint
    9 feet x 14 feet x 5 feet
    Jim Dine
    American artist, 1935

    The Gravity of Color New Britain, 2008-2013
    Lisa Hoke
    American Artist

    Approximately 20,000 clear plastic cups | Painted with vibrant colors | Vintage opaque paper cups from a variety of establishments | Attached to the wall with either a grommet or glue

  3. Explain that the art project is to use the steel can, magnets, magnetic and non-magnetic items to create an assemblage. Show students an example of a completed work.

  4. Distribute supplies to students and invite them to be creative!

  5. Students create their assemblages.

  6. Students title their work and discuss.

  7. If you like, you can sing the song and use the recycle “stickers” provided in the Earth Week “What’s It Going to Be?” Learning Activity.
  1. A 28 oz. steel can (and lid if you have recycled that as well), one per student. Insure that cans collected do not have any sharp edges. “The Smooth Edge Can Opener” is the recommended type to use as it efficiently cuts on the side of the can, leaving no sharp edges on the can or lid. I like to lightly spray a white coat of primer onto the cans to give them a more finished look.

  2. 1/2” or 5/8” magnets, approximately 20 per student.

  3. Various magnetic items, a hardware and/or art store are good shopping areas; nuts, bolts, washers, clamps, paper clips, binder clips, bells, etc. Several of each item and enough for all students.

  4. Various colorful non-magnetic items such as small pieces of paper, pipe cleaners, wire, and pony beads that can be strung onto pipe cleaners or wire, etc.

  5. I like to also use a smaller can, about 8 oz. (smaller in diameter from the 28 oz. can); mount the larger can on top of the smaller can (with magnets) for sort of a pedestal look.

  6. A piece of mat board or foam core, about 8” square, to serve as a surface to display the assemblage.

Sculpture: A three dimensional form created by carving, modeling or assembling

Assemblage: A type of sculpture, 3 dimensional (having height, width and length), made with a variety of materials, often found objects, sometimes referred to as “mixed media”

Magnet: a body, as a piece of iron or steel, that possesses the property of attracting certain substances and creating a magnetic field; this magnetic field is invisible but is responsible for the force that pulls on other ferromagnetic materials (such as iron or steel) and attracts or repels other magnets.

> Click here to see some Pre-K and K students and their Thingamajigs!


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