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i call them "What-cha-ma-Calders" : for upper elem kids i use coat
hangers/wire/string/fish line/whatever and interesting shapes/forms cut
from colored laundry detergent bottles. by planning this out you can get
some really cool "Calderesque" forms out of the red ERA? containers. you
can also use plastic milk jugs for the forms and paint them with acrylic
paint but it takes longer and of course is messier. i tell them they
have to have one or 2 large forms on one side balanced with smaller
forms on the other.
for 1st graders i use Calder to introduce "sculpture." first have them
make stabiles with primary colored construction paper strips (accordian
folded, spiraled around a pencil, etc.) glued to a black square of
poster board. then they use secondary colored strips to build 2
structures which they attach with yarn to a "straw." i show them how to
make the straw by rolling a 3"x9" piece of construction paper diagonally
around a pencil and gluing down the last corner. they have to balance
their strucxtures by sliding the yarn ties along the straw. be sure to
have a place ready to hang them as they will all finish simultaneously
and if you try to collect them, they'll be all tangled up in a new york
minute. also make sure more than half the class can tie so they can help
each other with that part.