Whirligigs are kinetic contraptions that can be powered by wind, crank, or motor. These wonderful creations have a long history and range from lawn ornaments to fine art. This activity focuses on wind-powered paper creatures, but similar principles can be applied to all types of whirligigs. Learn more about the history of whirligigs and its deep roots in England, China, Egypt, Iran, Greece, and the Roman Empire.
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.
One way to tinker with whirligigs is to play around with different materials. For the propeller, consider trying a:
The drive shaft can be any long and narrow material, such as a:
Long match stick
Rolled up paper
The crank is made from maleable wire, such as:
18 gauge steel wire
Coat hanger wire
Consider decorative materials and a variety of adhesives like hot glue and tape as part of your materials pallet.
Artist Spotlight: Noga Elhassid
Noga is an Israeli artist who created a workshop designed to teach kids basic physical phenomena and mechanical principles through play. Check out more of her work at The Moving Toys Workshop.
Experiments with science, art,
technology, and delightful ideas.