How to make a Spirograph and Orbit-Inspired Art
Meets the learning standards for grades 4-5 (can be adapted)
Media Type: Drawing
Subject: English Language Arts and Reading, Science, Social Studies, Fine Arts
Formal Lesson Plan and TEKS Information

The following project includes one full week of lessons pulling inspiration from objects in space to explore the aesthetics of trajectory, repetition, and pattern.  Use common household materials to construct a Spirograph tool. Click through the buttons at the bottom of each page to move on to the next day of lessons!

Materials: pencil, corrugated cardboard, scissors, various sizes of round objects to trace, pushpin/safety pin/needle, eraser (optional)

Let’s watch this video called “Orbits are Odd:”


Now it is time to make a spirograph drawing tool out of common household art supplies!

1) Gather two pieces of similarly sized cardboard (approximately the size of a piece of drawing paper), a round object that slightly smaller than the piece of cardboard (in this example, the artist is using a large plastic lid) and a pencil. Center the round object on the piece of cardboard and carefully trace it.

2) Use scissors or a cutting tool to carefully cut out the circle while leaving the outer area intact. Repeat the process with the other piece of cardboard. Set the circles aside.

3) Apply glue to the back of one of the pieces of cardboard and press it on to the other piece, making sure to line up the circular holes. This object is called a “jig.” Set the jig aside to dry.

4) Cut several ½ inch wide strips of cardboard in the direction that shows the zig-zag corrugation on the edge.

5) Carefully peel the paper from one side of the cardboard strips, exposing the ridges.

6) Return to the jig. Apply a thin line of glue on the smooth side of a cardboard strip. Position the strip along the inside edge of the circle in your jig. The ridges should be pointing into empty space. It might be necessary to use more than one cardboard strip to fill the entire circle. Cut off any excess, so that you have created an uninterrupted corrugated circle. Set the jig aside.

7) Trace and cut out several other sizes of circles, making sure that they are smaller than the interior space of the jig.

8) Apply a thin line of glue on the smooth side of a cardboard strip. Then position the strip along the OUTSIDE of each of the smaller circles. This time the ridges should be pointing OUT. These toothed circles are called “sprockets.”

9) Place one of the sprockets on top of a large eraser. Use a pushpin, needle, or safety pin to poke a hole through the center of the sprocket and into the eraser. Wiggle the pin around to slightly widen the hole you made. Remove the pin and then poke another hole in a different location within the sprocket. Wiggle the pin around to widen the hole. Repeat with each sprocket. (*The eraser should not stay attached to the sprockets. It is just an aid for poking the holes.)

You’ve completed your spirograph tool! Does it remind you of anything? What are some examples of sprockets in your everyday life?