Whirligigs are kinetic contraptions that can be powered by wind, crank, or motor. Create wind-powered paper creatures or moving parts. A paper cup works well to capture wind but consider experimenting with paper in a variety of ways.
Artist and tinkerer Noga Elhassid designed this experience to introduce kids to physical phenomena. Explore more Wind and Air Explorations and let your ideas take flight!
Parts and Purposes
The big idea with whirligigs is there are two categories of parts: movable and stationary. Take advantage of these ideas as you experiment with materials.
- Propeller. This catches the wind and creates the movement of the drive shaft and crank. Consider materials like a paper cup or paper folded to catch wind from outdoors or a fan.
- Drive shaft and crank. Freely spinning with the propeller, this can be made from any long and narrow material, such as a dowel, chopstick, or straw. The crank is a bend in the drive shaft and can be made from the same material or another, such as wire or a paperclip.
- Base. Cardboard works wonders here and can produce a strudy structure. The addition of a straw aids in the spinning of the drive shaft.
Here are some ideas for materials to support tinkering with whirligigs! We divide the parts into the stationary unit (the base and holder) and the movable unit that catches the wind.
One way to tinker with whirligigs is to play around with different materials. For the propeller, consider trying a:
Paper cup with slits
Set of playing cards
The drive shaft can be any long and narrow material, such as a:
- Skewer stick
- Long match stick
- Rolled up paper
The crank is made from maleable wire, such as:
- 18 gauge steel wire
- Paper clip
- Coat hanger wire
Consider decorative materials and a variety of adhesives like hot glue and tape as part of your materials pallet.
Noga Elhassid is an Israeli artist and creator of Whimsical Whirligigs. Her workshops are designed to introduce kids to physical phenomena and mechanical principles through play.
Check out more of her work at The Moving Toys Workshop.