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Pendulum Painting

Use a swinging pendulum to create art! As a pendulum swings, it follows an elliptical path. The paint allows children to see the path the pendulum is following, and experiment with how they can alter this. 

These activities are part of Science World's Big Science for Little Hands program. They were developed and tested with Preschool and Kindergarten educators.

Gadgets and Contraptions printable guide

Objectives

  • Use ramps, pulleys, levers and pendulums.

Materials

  • Per Group:
    2 chairs, 2 tables or a doorway
    long ruler or wooden dowel
    masking tape
    string
    paperclips
    scissors
    Thin cardstock (rolled into cones and secured with tape)
    paint (thinned out with water to get a good dripping consistency)
    Large sheets of paper
    Large plastic sheet, newspaper or a few garbage bags

Key Questions

  • What pattern is the pendulum making?
  • What does your painting look like?
  • What happens if you don't stop the pendulum?
  • Why are our paint lines/loops getting smaller?
  • What happens if you swing the pendulum gently? More forcefully?
  • How can you make a shape that's rounder? Skinnier?

What To Do

  1. Set up the chairs or tables with the wooden dowel bridging the gap between them.
  2. Tape down the ends of the dowel to secure it.
  3. Tie a piece of string to the dowel and attach a paperclip “hook” onto the free end.
  4. Spread out the plastic sheet beneath the pendulum and put a large sheet of paper on top.
  5. Prepare several cones using the thin cardstock. The cone should be closed at the point. Punch three or four holes in the sides of the cone, near the top, and thread some string through.
  6. Add some paint to the cone and hook the cone onto the pendulum.
  7. Demonstrate how to swing the pendulum, then snip the tip off the cone.
  8. Have the children swing the pendulum back and forth, and around and about. The path of the pendulum will appear on the paper in paint drips. Teacher Tip: Do a practice painting first to make sure the consistency of the paint and the size of hole you snip in the cone are appropriate.

Extensions

  • When the paint dries, look at the different patterns. What can you tell about the movement of the pendulum from the pattern?
  • In place of the cones, using a bottle with an adjustable opening, (such as a hair dye bottle) will allow greater control over the flow of paint.
  • Try doing pendulum paintings with different lengths of string and compare.
  • Instead of paint, try using coloured sand in its place. Cover the paper with glue prior to releasing the sand if you want the pattern to be permanent.
  • Tie a paint brush to a string and swing it over paper as a pendulum to create art.

Other Resources

Science World | YouTube | Exploring the Conservation of Energy (Pendulum Fun!)