Form and Tin Can Robots: Homeschool Art Lessons

If you can’t tell, we have been studying the Elements of Art. This week we experimented with Form. We started out talking about what a form is (a 3-dimensional Shape, a Shape inflated with air like a balloon) and what Geometric Shapes are called when they are forms (circles become spheres or cylinders, squares become cubes, rectangles become rectangular prisms and triangles become pyramids). Biomorphic Forms would include things like clouds, flowers, leaves, etc., forms found in nature, rounded and irregular.

We viewed the pictures and slide show from the National Gallery of Art lesson on Form, showing sculptures by Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, Sol LeWitt, Jean Arp, Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, and Martin Puryear. We discussed whether the forms were geometric or biomorphic, what material we thought each was made of, how we thought each was made or assembled, and what they reminded us of.

With those thoughts and inspiration propelling us, we then started our Tin Can Robot Project!


I found a few different tin can robot type projects online (links provided at bottom) and I didn’t follow any one in particular. Here’s what I did…


  • Scratch paper
  • Pencil or Pen
  • A variety of aluminum cans (make sure there are no sharp edges)
  • A bunch of metal parts from our junk bin (bolts, nuts, washers, rings, springs, hooks, L-brackets, etc.)
  • Plastic parts (lids, anchors, knobs, etc.)
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Gorilla Glue (optional)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hammer
  • 1-2 nails (to make starting holes for screws)
  • Screwdrivers
  • Small screws
  • Other things you could use that we didn’t – Brillo type pads, colored wire, metal jewelry wire

What we did:

1. I asked the kids to draw a robot, emphasizing Shape (such as, a rectangle body with a square head and rectangle arms and legs, circles for the hands and half circles for the feet, etc. – You can see one of their drawings in the photo below)


2. We talked about what Forms they might use to build a robot to look like their drawing. (This part didn’t last long – they were eager to begin building!)

3. I laid out all the parts I’d brought and they chose which pieces they might like for their robots. (There was ongoing trading and negotiating)

4. Then they built their robots! (Not necessarily having anything to do with their drawings)

(NOTE about adhesives – every tutorial I found suggested something different, from Epoxy (toxic if it touches skin) to heavy-duty disk magnets (really expensive) – I settled on Gorilla Glue and hot glue gun, neither of which I felt comfortable letting the kids use themselves because I’m a bit overprotective, so I did all the gluing. The Gorilla Glue worked well when attaching small metal parts to the cans. The glue gun worked for most things.)

When the glues didn’t work the way they wanted (such as, attaching arms that stuck straight out from the body), the kids problem solved without my help, found hammer, nails, screws and screwdrivers, and worked together to find solutions. I was really impressed to see this team dynamic and basically just sat back and watched, gluing occasionally. They did an awesome job!


This project was BY FAR the most popular with the kids! EVERY ONE of them was fully engaged and participating – from our preschooler up to our 5th graders – and could have gone on for hours. Check out their robots (click on any image to open Gallery Carousel Viewer)

Links to similar projects: (photo only, no tutorial)


Posted in Blog Posts, Fabric of Life, Homeschool Tagged with: , ,

Get the latest posts in your inbox...


TiffinyDesigns Patterns also available at:

Download Sewing Patterns Today!