Art Project: Overhead Projector

overhead projector art project

overhead projector art project

My husband works at a university and the collector in me was overjoyed to discover that there’s a little-known department on campus that sells surplus property from departments that no longer need old projectors, desks, and reams of paper.

I wandered into the dusty space about a year ago and walked out with something everyone needs: an overhead projector for just $5. Right, you have one, don’t you? And then it moved to my garage where it continued to collect dust for another year.

Well, I finally pulled it out and it turned out to be a perfect rainy day art project.

overhead projector object discussion

My daughter had never seen one of these before, so we started off with an open-ended game in object-based looking that I learned in graduate school. The idea behind the game is to unpack the qualities of a mysterious object based solely on what you can see. No other information is shared, and the process of discovery can build a great deal of enthusiasm around an experience.

I didn’t tell N what we were looking at. Rather, I put the projector in a place where she could easily see it from multiple points of view and then our conversation sounded something like this:

“What do you see?”

A box with a long, tall pole and a plug. It’s dusty. You missed a spot.

“Got it. Okay, how do you suppose it might work?”

I don’t know. Maybe you plug it in. And I see these knobs, so they probably turn. If I turn this one, this piece moves up the pole. There are some buttons, so you can turn it on and off.

“If we plug it in, what do you think it might do?”

I think it makes noise. A loud noise, like a blender. Brrrrrrrrr.

“Hmmm. Maybe it does make a noise. We’ll find out in a moment. If you open this flap, what do you see?”

A light. Let’s plug it in!

playing with the overhead projectorI plugged it in, flipped open the light, and spread out a collection of tangram pieces to play with. N had fun adjusting the height of the light and then made various arrangements of shapes, both abstract and realistic.

tessellation tilesI have a huge collection of transparent tangram tiles that I picked up at Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT), but if you click on this link it’ll take you to Amazon where you can order these shipped straight to your home.

overhead projector with kidsI pulled the curtains in the room shut, and the overhead projector’s bulb did a great job illuminating the wall. The walls in this room are painted dark grey, so I taped two sheets of 18″ x 24″ paper from Discount School Supply to the wall, and it made for a perfect screen.

We talked about how the projector reverses images, so you won’t see a mirror image of what exists on the glass plate.

This art project was wonderful in so many ways. The dim lights in the room were calming and helped focus my child’s big afternoon energy like a cup of tea can focus mine. It was fun to play with something new, and we both enjoyed exploring the mechanics of this archaic tool from Stanford’s past. As an artform, working with the tangram shapes was like painting with light and color, while making compositional choices. 

In case you’re interested in finding your own overhead projector, I did a quick Craigslist search and see them posted in the $25-$80 price range, but I bet a little searching could find you something for less money. And if you happen to be in my real-life friend circle, you’re more than welcome to borrow mine for a while, which is better than having it collect dust in my garage.

I’m thinking our next overhead projector project might be making our own transparencies. Any other ideas?

Do you have an overhead projector, light table, or some other type of projector (either of your own or at your disposal)? What could you try this with?

Kiwi Crate: Hands-on Projects Delivered to Your Home

Kiwi Crate Review spinning tops

kiwi crate

Have you heard of Kiwi Crate? I’ve had the pleasure of knowing this smart, forward-thinking start-up since its early days, and I can’t tell you how proud I am to be associated with them.

I’m a DIY-kind-of-gal, but I also recognize that a lot of my readers don’t have the time to make everything from scratch. And that’s where Kiwi Crate comes in. For $19.95/month, Kiwi Crate delivers a set of thematic hands-on projects (ages 3-6) that even I can’t help but swoon over.

When the charming + thoughtfully packaged crate arrived, N was eager to dig in to all of the three projects. At once. And it took everything in me to curb her enthusiasm and slowly work our way through the crate.

The crate I’m sharing today happens to be about color, but the variety of themes will keep you and your kids interested as they vary each month from Dinosaurs to Outer Space (see this beautifully photographed review for a peek at both) to Gardening. Fun!

As someone who once wrote and designed lesson plans for art museums, I’m impressed with how Kiwi Crate has designed their packaging. The instructions are simple, clear, and well-illustrated, and the materials are wrapped up beautifully like a box of gifts. Since N was beyond excited to open the box and wanted to get started right away, I guess that says it all.

Project #1: sun catchers with colorful transparent plastic.

Sun catchers were already a popular activity in our home, but Kiwi Crate took it to another level with pre-cut mat board frames and contact paper, cut-to-size. The set-up was easy, clean up was a snap, and once N was done her sun catchers were ready to display. She enjoyed propping up and admiring her handiwork as we worked on another project.

Project #2: Color-mixing spinners.

The spinners they included are made of wood and far more beautiful than anything I’ve been able to find.  They included pre-cut circular paper discs and a full marker set for her to decorate.

Her spinners, ready to go!

Color mixing at work! This was by far my daughter’s favorite project.

Project #3: Bleeding tissue paper bag

While N’s excitement for the crate could have blown through all the projects in one sitting, I saved this for another day. This sweet little kid-sized cotton tote came as a bonus project. The instructions asked us to soak it in water, lay squares of pre-cut bleeding tissue paper on the bag, and add more water to transfer the ink from the tissues to the bag. We let it dry overnight, and had a nice little tote bag for storing our park snacks in. A couple weeks after making this, I had an event at Kiwi Crate. N ran to get the bag, telling me that I had to carry my wallet and keys in it so they could see how we made it. Awwww. They were impressed.

If you’re looking for an experience-based, process-oriented gift for a child in your life, or thoughtfully curated projects that can save you planning time, Kiwi Crate subscriptions are 3, 6, or 12 months and shipping is free. And I just noticed that if you sign up for a year, you get one month free!

Kiwi Crate also has a Blog and a Facebook page that are both worth following for more good ideas and company updates.

What themes would you like to see in a Kiwi Crate? Could you go for a little Kiwi Crate magic?

Note: I’ve been an advisor to Kiwi Crate since May 2011.