During our daily walks, my kids and I have noticed a few of our neighbors have pinwheels in their front yards. They are colorful and mesmerizing to watch spin in the wind. So today for our STEAM Activity we’re making pinwheels using materials we already have at home.

As you’ve may have read about in my previous posts, my son is really into making paper crafts right now. Pinwheels involve paper crafting and are wind powered like the kites we made yesterday, so I thought my kids would really enjoy this activity.

MATERIALS:

  • Brown paper bag, scrapbook paper, or construction paper
  • Sticks or pencil with eraser
  • Push pin 
  • Cardboard scrap to use as a spacer

PROCEDURE:

  1. Cut your paper into a square, and color the paper if desired

2. Fold along diagonal making a triangle, then open back up

3. Fold again along opposite diagonal making a triangle then open back up, you now have a square with X folds

4. Draw a dot in the center and a small tick mark about 1” from the center along each folded line 

5. Cut along each fold line until you reach the tick mark

6. Fold one corner of each quadrant into the center (but do not crease the fold)

7. Stick a push pin through the tip of each folded corner then through the center dot on the paper. 

8. Push the scrap cardboard in the back of the paper on the push pin

9. Push the pin into the tip of a pencil eraser or stick

10. Blow into the loop of the pin wheel to watch it spin. Or you can hold it in the wind and watch the wind spin the pinwheel for you!

STEAM CONCEPTS LEARNED:

  • Science: Wind force strikes the curved face of the pinwheel, and due to Newton’s 3rd law (equal and opposite reaction) the wind force is directed downward due to the shape of the surface it’s hitting. This causes the pinwheels to rotate and begin to spin as this the wind continues to hit the 4 arms of the pinwheel. 
  • Engineering: We made 4 pinwheels. Two were huge, using the recycled paper bag and scrapbook paper and large sticks. These required a very strong blow to make them spin, and they were more difficult for my kids to make (it was hard to push the pin into the sticks). So we revised our design and made smaller pinwheels using letter size paper and pencils with erasers. The whole family agreed the smaller pinwheels were easier to make and were much easier to spin. Engineers design solutions and have to rework ideas to optimize their designs. 
  • Art: We colored our pinwheels and choose fun colored scrapbook paper. This is a great activity to let your kids use their imaginations to combine art and STEM. 

These pinwheels are as fun to make as they are to play with! I hope you give it a try and let me know how they go for you and your kids.

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