Learning about physics and motion through Art

We noticed that our two to three year olds were really interested in transportation. They focused in their play on moving objects from place to place, not only cars and trains but other objects too. They were fascinated with motion experimenting with how car travels when being pushed along a track or down a ramp. Children were experimenting with moving through space for example spinning round and round till they became dizzy. This led to us planning investigation into what causes motion and movement

Through our art lessons the children learnt that all motion is caused by two force – pushing and pulling. The children pushed and pulled large paint brushes to mix the colours for the base. We used the language of “pulling and pushing” with them and these words soon became part of their language.

In the art studio we often encourage collaborative creation. A large canvas was available in the studio each day and each day the children had access to different tools and were able to use different techniques. on the canvas all of which involved movement in different ways The children were intrigued by the changes of the canvas day by day and were very proud when the canvas finished and on display. In the image below they used sponges to move pain over the canvas.

They applied a layer of paint blobs (paint moving by dropping) to the canvas. Once dried, our Art teacher layered a plastic covering on top of blobs of paint. The children were then able to touch and feel and move the paint from underneath the plastic. As the children had been interested in transportation of cars, they also rolled the cars across the canvas and noticed the tracks they had left on the canvas and how the paint had been pushed towards other areas of the canvas.

Ramps are an amazing way to create motion! We created ramps and rolled cars on to the painted canvas to see what happened. This brought up the question; “What force pulls things down the ramp when we are not pushing them?” We discovered that weight will pull things down and the weight of the cars will affect their speed. We introduced the term “gravity”

The children then sprinkled paint onto the canvas again, letting gravity pull it down. The children squeezed tubes of paint, some children even pushed and pulled the paint using their hands to create a sensory experience.

Next, we created a pendulum. We filled a cup with watered down paint and the children pushed the cup to create a circular motion. This was an exciting experience as we discovered gravity pulled the paint down onto canvas even whilst moving.

Lastly, the children (and teachers!) flicked paint to give our canvas the finishing touches. The children loved seeing the paint spluttering everywhere, on the canvas and aprons and learnt such a lot about movement, forces and gravity through this project.