Calder Inspired Circus

This time we were inspired to make a circus using found objects and other things we had around the house! Everybody brought in something and we all shared. As you will see there were corks, clothes pins, ribbons and cupcake liners, bits and pieces from here and there, etc.  (Edoardo actually went outside, around his house on a hunt for objects and came back with the best treasures – including the sword for the sword swallower, parts to make a top hat for the ring master and the star decoration for the center ring!)

The lion, clown and the girl with the long red hair has the unfortunate job of picking up trash and animal poop (it must be awfully gratifying, she has a large smile on her face)!

A clown, the Ring Master in the center circle, to his right you can see a sword swallower and just below him a juggler.

A wider view of the circus with a view of the tiger (the rings of fire kept falling) and of course a beautiful mouse ballerina!

How can this be used as an ESL, EFL or bilingual tool?  Usually older kids know many of the animals and that’s always reassuring to them. Aside from introducing new animals, you can introduce various characters of a circus -like clowns, acrobats, dancers, etc as well as what they do.  Have the kids present what they’ve made and a little something about what it does. Let us know what you come up with!

To read this in Italian, click here.

Happy Birthday Alexander Calder

In honor of one of our favorite artists, Alexander Calder – we have a project for you!

(Don’t forget to check out our Calder inspired Circus).

This is a project that is a little tougher for kids and even the older ones may need some adult help.


  • scissors
  • hole punch
  • glue
  • twigs, stick or skewers (with the pointy end cut off)
  • thread (or light weight string) cut into approx 40 cm,                                               plus one longer piece to hang the mobile
  • construction paper or craft foam
  • Calder inspired shapes

Step 1: Draw (or trace) your shapes onto the construction paper (or craft foam). Remember when choosing the colors Calder used mainly primary colors (red, yellow and blue) and black. You can choose to be inspired by his color palette or make up your own. Cut out the shapes.

Step 2 Use hole puncher to punch holes into shapes

Step 3: Tie* a piece of string to each shape.

Step 4: We’re going to start from the bottom layer up. Choose 2 shapes and tie them on to each end of the stick, about equal distance from the end. Each shape should dangle approx 5-10 cm from the skewer. Put a dot of glue where the knot and the stick meet, this is to keep the string from sliding around. This will be stick 1.

Step 5: Now comes the tricky part, tie a string in the center of the stick. Hold the end of the center string and you will see that everything tilts from one side. You must slide the knot from one side to the other to try and balance the stick. Slide the knot towards the shape that is lower, this will help balance the weight out. You will have to slide it back and forth a few times to figure out where the perfect center of balance is. Once you’ve figured it out, put a dot of glue on the knot. Congratulations, you have just completed the first layer!

Step 6: Using the center string of stick 1, tie the layer to the end of another stick (stick 2) and put a dot of glue. Choose another shape and tie it onto the other end of stick 2 and put a dot of glue. Tie another string onto the the middle of stick 2 and then find the center of balance, then put a dot of glue.

Step 7:  Repeat step 7 for the rest, until you have just 2 shapes left. (You don’t have to do all the shapes, just until you are satisfied).

Step 8: Tie all the layers to the end of another stick (the top stick)  and put a dot of glue.

Step 9: Tie this last layer onto end of the top stick.  Tie a long piece of string to the center

Step 10 :Tah dah! You are finished! You have just completed your Calder inspired mobile.  Now hang the mobile up and you watch it move.  Do the shapes make different things when it moves? Does it look like a fish? A smiling face?

*To tie a regular knot, we like to say a little poem to remember what to do:                    Over, under, easy to do. Reach through the hole and pull it through.

However – we like to use a surgeons knot, the end of the string is pushed through the hole twice before pulling.  This keeps the knot from unraveling so easily. You might have to change the poem to: over, under and under again, easy to do. Reach through the hole and pull it through :o)

Just in case you can’t understand the pictures, perhaps an illustrated version might help!

ESL EFL bilingual vocabulary to concentrate on: opposites left, right, heavier, lighter, higher, lower.

To read this in Italian, click here.

Alexander Calder

Louise reminded me that today is the birthday of our beloved Alexander Calder.  I recently got this book all about him, in particular it’s just right for kids of all ages.

Patricia Geis, “Guarda che artista! Alexander Calder”, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

It’s more than a pop up book, it’s also a book that inspires to create Calder inspired art.  You won’t be able to wait and experiment and have fun making something just like him.

And just so you wont forget – aside from inviting you to make a Calder mobile or stabile (perhaps on a smaller scale), don’t forget about his circus art! Have fun!

To read this in Italian, click here.