Join us in playfully exploring balance and stability! Design your own whimsical kinetic sculptures by tilting, sliding, and suspending everyday objects and ordinary materials into surprising arrangements. Explore stability, centers of gravity, and symmetry through this hands-on, tactile activity.
Find a base, like your finger or bottle, and an object to precariously position on top. Here are some ideas for getting started:
Choose a theme to inspire your creation. For example, use fruit or kitchen utensils to build a "balanced diet" sculpture.
Gather everyday materials to explore. This activity invites you to use familiar materials in unfamiliar ways. Look around your space from a different perspective: what could be a base? What could be a balancer?
Stumble upon sculptures. What accidental sculptures made out of stacked objects do you notice in the natural world or in your everyday life?
You can explore balance with all sorts of everyday objects. We find it useful to group materials into loose categories and collect some objects from each category. Below are some ideas and starting points, but we encourage you to look around your space and use ordinary objects in new ways.
Bases: It helps to have a stable base for your balancing construction. You might try snugly situating something pointy, like a pencil, into a halved potato, or taping it to a jar. Branches, chopsticks, and nails can also be used as a perch for your sculpture. More ideas for bases are below.
Objects to Explore: Collect multiples of objects of different weights to experiment with. Some of our favorites include feathers, washers, binder clips, LEGO minifigures, kitchen utensils tools, art supplies, and even fruits and vegetables. How do more symmetrical items compare to more lopsided objects, like hammers?
Connectors: Use connectors like clay, binder clips, to complexify your build. Or build your own connector pieces out of cardboard!
Tools (optional): Scissors and a hole punch can be useful for modifying materials.
Find (or Make) a Base
Get started right away by balancing something on your finger, or even your head! Once you get a feel for balancing objects, find or make a stable base for a more complex balancing sculpture. Check out the video for ideas and inspiration.
Go on a material scavenger hunt for objects that could serve as the base of your balance sculpture. Collect objects that taper to a small point, like pencils, bottles, pepper grinders, watering can spouts, and silverware, and rocks. Or create a stable base with a pencil by taping it to a piece of furniture or placing it in a jar filled with rice.
How can you easily add to or adjust your sculpture (while repurposing cardboard scraps)? Try making connectors out of cardboard!
Cut out a piece of cardboard and use a hole puncher or sharp implement to poke two holes. Poke pencils through your cardboard connector to quickly build more complex sculptures. Your new cardboard pieces will also allow for making quick adjustments by sliding them along the pencil to distribute weight in differentt ways, and can be stoppers to hold weights, like washers, in place.
Tips & Next Steps
Things will fall over, so document along the way! Take photos and videos of your speedy sculptures as you test out different objects and arrangements — even if they aren't working the way you expected. Sometimes, videos of sculptures falling apart are even more interesting than perfectly stable structures!
Embrace movement. Check out examples below of balancing sculptures that sway, bob, teeter, and sometimes tumble. How does your sculpture move? Take your explorations further by building a kinetic sculpture.
Play with the center of gravity. This Science Snack from our colleagues at the Exploratorium Teacher Institute is a great way to get a physical feel for how weight distribution impacts balance.
Check out our gallery of examples created by makers from all over the world. Add your own balancing sculptures by clicking on the pink plus sign + in the bottom right hand corner. Include your name, where your from, and anything else you'd like to share!
Featured Artist: Erwin Wurm
This speedy balance sculpture prompt is based on artist Erwin Wurm's One Minute Sculptures. The project features familiar objects in unexpected arrangements with a dose of absurdity. People are invited to engage in unusual and even physically challenging interactions with everyday objects including buckets, balls, bicycles and even fruit. A few of our favorites are below:
Photo credit: Erwin Wurm, One Minute Sculptures.