Embracing Chance with Circle Art

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A collaborative art project that revolves around the element of chance – second graders worked with their table to create sculptures using colorful paper scraps they chose randomly.


  • Long scraps of construction paper
  • Cardboard
  • Paint
  • Art Paste

Downloadable PowerPoint: 2nd Circle Sculptures

My original inspiration for this project was to use up paper scraps. I saw photos on Art Actually and was excited to alter the project for my 2nd graders. As I started prepping for it, the core goal became to help 2nd graders embrace chance while teaching them about abstract sculpture. I couldn’t be more thrilled with how well the kids responded and how incredible the finished product looks.

Students create abstract sculptures using paper and art paste.

I did the project over two class periods. The first day I combined prepping the cardboard with finishing our last project. We started by looking at Lee Gainer’s artwork; the kids made observations about what they noticed. Then, each table got a piece of cardboard and wrote their table name and teacher name on the back. Then, I walked around the room and had the students randomly pull out four colors and tape them to the back of their cardboard. I explained that these would be the colors they would use to make circles

Students create abstract sculptures using paper and art paste.

Choosing the 4 colors was the first “chance” element and it went over really well. I had a couple of kids say, “Oh I don’t like this color.” But once I causally said, “Well, it’s kind of like a surprise, isn’t it?” they were okay with not being able to choose. The next “chance” element was the paint. I had six closed containers of paint and I asked one person from each table to come pick a container. That was the color they used to paint their cardboard. This step was a little crazy because I had tables finishing at different times. Once a table finished and cleaned up, I had that group start drawing sketchbook pages, which helped to keep them focused.


There was a bit of prep work for the second day; I spent 15 minutes before each class organizing cups of paper according to the pieces each table had taped onto their cardboard. This made the actual class time go so much smoother. I also mixed up the paste a couple weeks early because I was using a brand I hadn’t tried before. It was a weird chunky mess for several days. I was finally able to smooth it out using a paint stirrer attachment on my drill.

Students create abstract sculptures using paper and art paste.

I did a demo for each class and showed them how to wrap the paper strips around a pencil. I emphasized that you have the “let it grow” by taking it off the pencil and letting go of it. If they dipped it into the paste before doing this step, it would unravel with the paste dripping everywhere, which could get messy! I was surprised that I actually had to encourage them to dip their circles deeper into the paste. Many of them had a tendency to not get enough paste on the bottom of the circle. I also went around with a paintbrush and added a little extra paste to circles that looked like they were about to fall off.


The finished artwork took several days to dry completely. They definitely took over my classroom for the week! Once they were dry, I was able to hang them up for our Showcase. I used command strips and a staple gun, in the future I think I would just use the staple gun. It was cheaper and held the artwork up better. The cardboard curls as it dries, so I tried to staple them on the two points that naturally touched the wall, so that it didn’t strain the art and cause the circles to pop off.


Displayed together, these had an incredible visual impact. The kids loved looking at them as they walked to lunch and so many teacher commented on how cool it looked. It was one of those rare projects where both the process and the end product are fantastic!





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