Sculptures on the Move
by Casey Murrow
In Colleen Grouts art class, papier-mâché figures traveled down an incline, sliding on strong mono-filament (fishing line). These fifth graders had designed sculptures to be mounted on small blocks of wood and they were balancing these relatively heavy shapes using wire and large washers to lower the center of gravity.
Could a sculpture be balanced on a short, horizontal test line? Then, could the finished piece actually slide down a long, inclined line that ran across the classroom? [The blocks of wood had shallow grooves cut in them to keep them aligned with the mono-filament.] What were the problems of physics in this work? Was there a mathematical relationship between the mass of the sculpture and the mass of the washers or other weights?
Just as important were questions about whether the designs could survive the ride, or a crash or a fall. Many of the creations were images of people in motion: acrobats, runners and dancers. As they traveled down the line, some slid quickly; others jerked and wobbled along, creating amusing motions. Changing the number of washers or the shape of the wire balancing arms often modified the movements and raised other interesting questions as students tested their sculptures on the move.
- Casey Murrow is Co-Director of Synergy Learning and editor of CONNECT.