Calder Rocking Birds — 6th Grade

Students were introduced to sculpture artist Alexander Calder and taught about the use of balance as an art principle. Students were directed to create zentangles on 6 inch squares of colored railroad paper which were then folded and cut into circles. The pieces were combined to create a paper toy able to stand and rock on its own.

Teacher Exemplar

Teacher Exemplar



  • View and discuss the work of Alexander Calder

  • Design a zentangle using various patterns

  • Create a paper toy inspired by the work of Alexander Calder

Student Work


  • Sharpie Markers

  • Colored Railroad Paper (6x6”, 2x2”, and scraps ~1x2”)

  • Pipe Cleaners (cut to 6”)

  • Glue Guns (and glue)

  • Scissors

  • Feathers


Student Work


  • Design a Zentangle on a 6x6” piece of railroad paper.

  • Trace a circle onto the railroad paper and cut it out.

  • Fold the 2x2” railroad paper in half. Draw the shape of the bird’s head. Cut it out.

  • Fold a 1” scrap of railroad paper into a tab shape and use it to glue the bird’s body closed.

  • Glue the pipe cleaner one inch into the head and the body.

  • Fold the pipe cleaner back and position it until the bird balances.


Assignment Handout